A Wrinkle in Time (2018)
A Wrinkle in Time (2018)

Genre: Adventure and Fantasy Running Time: 1 hr. 49 min.

Release Date: March 9th, 2018 MPAA Rating: PG

Director: Ava DuVernay Actors: Storm Reid, Levi Miller, Chris Pine, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Reese Witherspoon, Oprah Winfrey, Mindy Kaling, Deric McCabe, Zach Galifianakis, Michael Pena

 


 

W

hen young Meg Murry’s (Storm Reid) father vanishes, it turns her world upside down. Getting into fights in school and facing an academic decline, Meg’s only friends are her mother Kate (Gugu Mbatha-Raw) and six-year-old adopted prodigy brother Charles Wallace (Deric McCabe). On the fourth anniversary of her father’s sudden departure, Charles Wallace invites a perplexing figure into the Murry’s home – the enchanted Mrs. Whatsit (Reese Witherspoon), who informs the family about the existence of a tesseract before abruptly leaving. Though puzzled by the abstruse message, Meg begins to slowly unravel the meaning after her brother introduces her to yet another acquaintance: the cryptic Mrs. Who (Mindy Kaling). When Meg meets the third mystifying being, Mrs. Which (Oprah Winfrey), she explains that the trio of women are guardians of light and will help the siblings to locate their father. What begins as a search through time and space soon transforms into a rescue mission when the children and their newfound friends discover that Mr. Murry (Chris Pine) ran afoul of “The It,” an inky energy form that seeks to engulf the universe in darkness.

Children coping with major tragedies is certainly a heavy topic. Here, the initial abandonment issues are approached with music video montages and the most annoyingly precocious 6-year-old boy, behaving like some alien doppelgänger, even when he’s not being controlled by supernatural entities. Equally obnoxious is the school principal (Andre Holland), who questions why Meg is no longer a top student. Isn’t it painfully obvious that a preteen having her father disappear for years without a single word is enough to drastically alter her routines and general outlook on life? Why are so many adults trying to reason with her, as if she can fully grasp and come to terms with the notion that a parent has walked out on his family, most likely for another woman?

“You really don’t trust easily, do you?” questions Mrs. Whatsit, after she enters the Murry home, dressed in white bedsheets and spouting riddles, eerily aware of the family’s individual names. While this might have worked in a more innocent setting, the present-day vibe gives this introduction an aura akin to a home invasion horror movie. And the next morning, Meg wanders directly into another stranger’s dilapidated house – yet one more action that screams of thrills, not laughs.

Every event grows more and more unfitting, despite “A Wrinkle in Time” struggling to present itself as a family-friendly fantasy. A love story with the conveniently placed Calvin (Levi Miller) seems hardly appropriate, while talk of quantum entanglement and alternate dimensions nods toward utter absurdity (especially during a meeting with NASA scientists). And, sure enough, once the sci-fi components take hold, the movie only becomes less coherent and less congruous. The various players are labeled warriors on a rescue mission, yet Meg appears woefully out-of-place. She’s ultimately not needed, since the three Mmes. are seemingly all-powerful beings that can transport spontaneously through space. After all, Whatsit has to tell Meg what to do at every turn, while also translating otherworldly concepts (such as when she clarifies that sentient flower creatures “speak color”).

The theme of bullying is more interesting than the epic quest to locate Mr. Murry, particularly as it involves real-world confrontations with peers, along with Calvin’s abuse by his own father. But tackling these matters isn’t a priority for the filmmakers (they are, in fact, resolved with the wave of a hand); instead, they prefer to concoct preposterous visuals, such as flying around on a billowing leaf-person, or meditating with a bearded weirdo in a cave of teetering rocks. Even the conflict of the It – which is, sadly, not a mutant clown monster, but a vague, evil energy spreading throughout the universe – has no specific definition. It’s little more than a message about being kind to one another. Since there are no rules, each scene tends to make things up (a common downfall to a great many fantasy flicks), such as when the trio of sorceresses are unable to continue traveling with Meg, due to a lack of power; when they devise magical gifts to give for her continued journeys; and when Meg arrives on the It’s planet, which morphs into various environments like the holodeck from the “Star Trek” shows (“It’s a physics thing,” Meg insists, as if that clarifies how she can survive being flung around the corona of a tornado while clinging to a hollowed-out tree log).

During their various misadventures, the children never seem like they’re in any real danger. This is troublesome for investing in the characters, especially as the obstacles they encounter become ever odder and less satisfying; creativity is at a minimum when every visual embellishment is abstract and patternless, as if the script was written without an outline (perhaps comparable to a kid-friendly version of “Zardoz” or “The Dark Tower”). There’s no sensible plan for getting from point A to B. By the end, all sorts of other storytelling predicaments arise: the most amusing character, Mrs. Who, who speaks in quotes, can’t even stick to her simple idiosyncrasy; love conquers all, including a tentacle monster and a possessed child, like Damien from “The Omen”; and the severe subject of abandonment is brushed off with a witticism and lots of hugs (a method one might expect Richard Dreyfuss’ Roy from “Close Encounters of the Third Kind” to employ, should he ever return from his joyride across the galaxy with rubbery alien children) – tacked onto a lesson about avoiding scientific experiments in favor of focusing on family first.

– The Massie Twins

  • 2/10