By Jack Dignan
There’s audaciousness about Disney’s A Wrinkle In Time that’s hard to look past. This is, in every sense of the world, an ambitious project. Going in without ever having read the book nor seen the 2003 adaptation, I was unsure of what I was in store for, but eager to give it a go and experience what director Ava DuVernay had up her sleeve. A Wrinkle In Time is big, cerebral and visually evocative, and while it certainly has the makings of a future classic, this adaptation falls just short of hitting the mark.
We follow the story of Meg (Storm Reid), a young social outcast trying to fit into a world that doesn’t seem to accept her. It’s been four years since the disappearance of her scientist father (Chris Pine), a mystery that’s never been solved and one she’s struggling to overcome. But on a stormy night, Meg and her brother Charles Wallace (Deric McCabe) are visited by three celestial beings, played by Oprah Winfrey, Reese Witherspoon and Mindy Kaling, who have followed her missing father’s call for aid right back to their doorstep. So, with the help of Meg’s newfound friend Calvin (Levi Miller), they venture across the galaxy in search of her father, who’s trapped within eternal darkness.
It’s a visually astounding depiction of a universe beyond comprehension, not bound to any sort of rule or logic. A Winkle In Time sees DuVernay make her first steps into a bigger playground, marking the first time an African American woman has made a movie with a budget of over $100 million, and she puts all that money to good use. This universe is bursting with colour and life, nearly every sequence grasping you with its unbridled beauty and technical achievement. The third act gets weird. But it’s a brilliant, stunning kind of weird.
Unlike many directors before her, DuVernay proves she can handle a big budget as well as she does a smaller one, and Disney have let her run wild. There’s a warm, emotional core to the story that pulls you in, and an important message that will certainly impact many of the children in the audience, but they can only take this movie so far. I really tried to love this film. There are so many sequences throughout that really moved me or stunned me, but when placed as part of a bigger picture, major issues arise.
The biggest problems lie within the screenplay by Frozen’s Jennifer Lee and Bridge to Terabithia’s Jeff Stockwell. Their adaptation of Madeline L’Engle’s classic novel is disjointed, underdeveloped and frequently nonsensical. What they do succeed in is building up the core relationship between Meg and her father, making her journey towards him an emotionally resonate one, but most of this film is made watchable through the directing and the performances. Because when it comes down to it, it’s the screenplay that really drags this film to the ground.
The cast try their best to make these lines work, but there’s only so far you can take terrible dialogue. Not every line gets saved. It’s never more apparent than in a very early scene in which Charles Wallace overhears his teachers talking about him behind his back, leading to a very public outburst of emotions. The scene is horrendous. Not necessarily because of what was trying to be achieved, but because of its written execution. They dumb the performances down and craft something so forced and unnatural that it almost hurts to hear come out of talented actor’s mouths.
Once the plot does get going and things start getting weird and wonderful, it picks up drastically. These character’s exploration of the magical world they now find themselves in leads to a number of terrific moments, but it also leaves you with the constant lingering question of “why?” Why is any of this happening? Why are we talking to Zack Galifanakis now? How come a certain character could only help out one of the protagonists as opposed to all of them? Where did these characters come from and how did they get here? Why is this character now doing the evil things they’re doing? There’s no flow or logic to be found anywhere.
The 4.2/10 rating this film currently sits at on IMDB is a bit harsh, but even then, it’s far from a masterpiece. There’s a lot to like in Disney’s latest, and it’s refreshing to see something from the House of Mouse that isn’t a retread of an old franchise (I mean, I guess this sort of counts as one since it’s technically been done before, but even then, there seems to be enough new material here to warrant it as its own thing), but at the end of the day, there’s not enough here for me to recommend rushing out to see it.
(but hey, shoutout to the movie for finally getting me to use this rating)
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