Classic children’s book adaptation from writer of “Frozen” shockingly bad

By Erik Jimenez 

I have never read Madeleine L’Engle seminal 1961 children’s novel, “A Wrinkle in Time”. It was apparently required reading many a K-8 students in the United States educational system, but for whatever reason, I was never forced to read it. So, I went into Disney’s adaptation of this (from what I’ve heard) unfilmable novel without any real context. I was rather curious of the film since the talented Ava DuVernay of “Selma” fame was behind the camera and Jennifer Lee, who wrote Disney’s “Frozen”, adapted the novel to screenplay form, so I was expecting quality. I can’t say whether or not the film is faithful to the book, but faithfulness questions aside, this film is one mighty disappointment in almost every aspect.

The movie focuses on Meg Murray (Storm Reid), a child prodigy daughter to two scientists (Gugu-Mbatha Raw and Chris Pine) whose father has been missing for several years who learns from her brother Charles Wallace (Deric McCabe) and three astral beings(?) Misses Which, Whatsit, and Who (Oprah Winfrey, Reese Witherspoon, and Mindy Kaling, respectively) that her father apparently found a way to travel through space and time, referred to as “Tess erring” in the film.

He has also been held captive by an evil being simply known as “The IT” (who does have transformative powers, none of which are a killer clown, unfortunately) on its universe spanning evil planet which can be anything it wishes to be and is full of dangers. So, Meg has to team up with her brother, The Misses, and her fellow student Calvin (Levi Miller) to save him before darkness envelops the universe.

While the film is clearly well-intentions with its message of love (both one’s own self and others) and many of its visuals are pretty enough to look at, there just aren’t enough beautiful moments to stop it from feeling that DuVerney and Lee were so concerned with message and inclusiveness that nearly everything else felt secondary.

The story feels both simplistic and overly convoluted but that I feel is mainly contributed to the editing. The film not only feels longer than it actually is (it’s under two hours) but it feels like a good 20-30 minutes were cut out altogether. For example, scenes that feel like they should be pivotal, like how Charles meets the three Misses happen offscreen. It feels like a tv edit of the actual film.

The acting is a mixed bag overall. The ace here is surprisingly newcomer Storm Reid as Meg. She is likable and is able to handle a wide range of emotions rather well for a child actress. I hope her career takes off after this. Oprah Winfrey is also rather good. There is a heart to heart conversation between her character and Meg halfway through the film that is easily the best scene in it mainly due to her and Reid’s performances. Oprah also manages to rock the Bollywood style costuming and makeup that Duverney took obvious influence from, the best.

The scenes where her character becomes a Giant also stand out due to her body language. (And also shows how Oprah probably thinks of herself to the rest of us puny mortals the best.)
Mindy Kaling and Reese Witherspoon do have their moments where they stand out but for the most part is rather forgettable. Some of the male actors in the film like Chris Pine as Meg’s Dad, Zack Galifinakis as Witherspoon’s intergalactic boyfriend, and Michael Pena as a form that the IT takes are in a similar predicament due to their little screen time.

Deric McCabe and Levi Miller though are just plain bad. McCabe’s Charles Wallace (who they always refer to in the film as such. No “C.W.”, No ‘Charlie’, Not even just ‘Charles’. It shows how silly a name it is.) takes precocious meter and ramps it up to 100 at the character’s fault and the audience’s annoyance. He often pulls focus away from Meg making it fell like the movie is about him and in a movie with planets, shapeshifting, the physical embodiments of the powers of love and darkness, and flowers that talk in color, he is far and away the least real element in it, especially by the time the climax rolls around. And Levi Miller’s Calvin just feels pointless. He serves no purpose in the story. He literally gets involved because he “felt” like he had to be at a certain place at a certain time and everything about him just rings false.
While “A Wrinkle in Time” is really well-intentioned, it’s hard to believe a creative team this talented can adapt a book that supposedly is supportive of women in science, and make the movie feel that almost all logic and reasoning was taken out leaving only face value.

Photo retrieved by Flickr.

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