D.C.’s Take: “A Wrinkle In Time”

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As I was watching Disney’s latest fantasy film "A Wrinkle in Time," there was a part of me thinking this wasn’t going to end up in what I like to call the “Live-Action Disney Big-Budget Barrel.” That’s the domain of Disney movies that, despite their huge budget and potential, failed to deliver. Past examples include "John Carter," "The Lone Ranger" (which never had potential) and, most recently, "Tomorrowland."

Sometimes you just hate being right about certain things. After the sudden disappearance of her scientist father Alex (Chris Pine), Meg Murry (Storm Reid) goes on an incredible journey through time and space with her younger brother Charles Wallace (Deric McCabe) and her new friend Calvin (Levi Miller of “Pan”). The three search for her father alongside three astral travelers: Mrs. Which (Oprah Winfrey), Mrs. Whatsit (Reese Witherspoon) and Mrs. Who (Mindy Kaling). The film itself is based on Madeleine L'Engle’s 1962 novel of the same name, and I actually remember reading a little bit of it back in seventh grade. I had no clue what was going on while reading it. There was a TV movie on ABC back in 2003, which I also kind of fondly remember. But when Disney announced this new version, at the time it sounded like a cool idea. And unlike some people, I judged this one of my most anticipated movies of 2018, and the fact that there wasn’t much hype for the film was just sad, to be honest. It wasn’t just because of the trailers, but also because director Ava DuVernay’s ("Selma", "13th") name was attached to this project. She’s the first African-American female director to direct a live-action film with a budget over $100 million. That’s really an accomplishment right there. But, just like a crush’s rejection, even with all that accomplishment, "A Wrinkle in Time" is a major disappointment. Almost throughout the film, you can really see that DuVernay put an effort into portraying the storytelling. But it falls apart right from the start because of the lack of imagination to be found at any point. There’s just something about the story, as a whole, that feels jumbled and confusing. Jennifer Lee ("Frozen") and Jeff Stockwell ("Bridge to Terabithia") adapted the novel, and it feels like elements were missing and changed from the book (and this is coming from someone who doesn't even remember what happened in the book). Some elements feel rushed, like the sudden friendship between Meg and Calvin or the introductions to the Mrs.’s. Both of these events were underdeveloped. The film just overall was rushed out for a 109-minute runtime. Even for someone who doesn’t understand complex science, the movie doesn’t make any logical sense. We’re supposed to feel like we’re on this magical adventure with Meg and the rest, but it turned out to be uneventful and absolutely tensionless. Combine "Tomorrowland" and "The Neverending Story" together and this is what you get. While there are moments meant to be touching and emotional, revolving around Meg and her family, they  didn’t quite get there for me. I couldn't shed a single tear during these scenes. The movie has a fantastic ensemble, and it’s a shame that they ended up here, with such weak character development. Reid is the breakout performer in this, and she provides a well-balanced performance as the protagonist finding her confidence and strength within herself. I also enjoyed Pine, when he did show up. The aspect that really looked interesting was the Mrs.’s, and sadly, they don’t get to do much, probably due to some poor writing. Personally, I think Zach Galifianakis (The Happy Medium), Michael Peña (Red) and Gugu Mbatha-Raw (Dr. Kate Murry) should’ve been present more; their screen time was very limited. I feel slightly mean saying this about a child actor, but McCabe’s performance as Charles Wallace was terrible. Most of his dialogue was cringe-worthy, especially coming from such an intelligent character. And the thing is: he’s in most of the movie.   But there are positives amid all these negatives. The score, by Ramin Djawadi, was excellent. Overall, “A Wrinkle in Time” is a visually gorgeous and colorful film, and aside from those mentioned above, most of the performances are very good. The CGI was well-done, (the flower gossipers in particular,) though it did feel overused and unfinished during some scenes. Would I say this would be a good movie for kids under 10? Looking at the message of the film, I would say kind of. But it's also a film that they will get bored with, and that goes same with adults. From the perspective of someone who was really hoping for this to be great and to prove the naysayers wrong, it’s easily the biggest letdown of the year so far. "A Wrinkle in Time" can be perfectly described as an amazing abstract painting that was accidentally left it out in the rain and ended up as a mess. I truly feel bad for a great director like DuVernay helming something this huge from a major studio. But this adaptation probably won’t connect with audience members like it intended. Suffice it to say that it’s not going to be Disney's next big thing. While "A Wrinkle in Time" is beautifully made and has a well-meaning cast, Ava DuVernay’s adaptation didn’t live up to the potential, making it a visionary, yet disappointing, mess. Grade: C-
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