Turning a beloved novel into a memorable movie is a difficult endeavor even with the power of Oprah Winfrey and Disney. A Wrinkle in Time seems like it has everything it takes to be another Disney classic. Sure, the 2003 version was met with negative reviews, but it also did not have an all-star cast and $100 million-dollar budget. Despite everything needed to be another timeless masterpiece, 2018’s A Wrinkle in Time is a rare disappointment from the Mouse House.
Based on Madeline L’Engle’s 1962 young adult novel, A Wrinkle in Time is the story of Meg Murray who is joined by her brother Charles Wallace and their friend Calvin on an interplanetary search for her missing father. Along the way, Meg meets new friends while overcoming challenges. The book is about the triumph of love.
Almost all of A Wrinkle in Time’s high-powered cast disappoints. By far, the literal biggest disappointment is Oprah Winfrey. Oprah has deservedly been a big part of the film’s marketing and is arguably the face of the project. The former talk show host is an accomplished actress with a number of acting awards to her name.
Unfortunately, A Wrinkle in Time may be Oprah’s most blasé performance. Oprah plays Mrs. Which, but instead of sounding wise, she sounds bored and uncaring. Mrs. Which fills the screen, but Oprah’s performance barely registers. The Queen of all Media is not the only cast member who fails to impress. Storm Reid plays Meg Murray in an equally apathetic performance. This is partially due to how the character is written (a depressed teenager saying depressed teenager things), but even when Reid is is tasked to show more emotion, it is generic at best.
Even the good performances have issues. Reese Witherspoon stands apart from the rest of the cast as the doubting Mrs. Whatsit. Witherspoon is funny, silly, and charming in her role, but it is hard not to wonder why Mindy Kaling was not cast in the role. Especially, since hilariously outspoken Kaling plays Mrs. Who, a character that speaks only in quotes until about midway through the movie when she has a few lines of original dialogue. It is an obvious bit of miscasting. (Zach Galifianakis is also good, but his role is basically limited to what is seen in the trailer.)
Deric McCabe also stands out for all the right and wrong reasons. As Charles Wallace, McCabe does a wonderful job in the early parts of the movie as a precocious young genius . His confrontation with teachers he overhears is one of the film’s highlights and simple mannerisms and comments done are downright endearing. McCabe is in his comfort zone here so later in the film when he needs to step outside that zone, the results are disastrous. In a movie filled with plenty of bland moments, McCabe is responsible for the worst one.
A Wrinkle in Time tries to compensate for its shallow storytelling by using over the top special effects and sound effects. Make no mistake, this is a beautiful movie however, the gorgeous settings do not make up for the overall lack of tension. There is no deviation in the story as Meg and her friends move from one pretty and loud location directly to another until the movie’s end. The book moves at a similar pace, but the reader has to use their imagination whereas the movie does the imagining for the audience, taking away some of the story’s charm.
The biggest fault with the movie may be how overbearing it is. When the book was released over half a century ago, a strong female lead with a faithful male companion was ground breaking. Things have changed since then, but it is nice to see that gender roles were not changed and the multi-cultural cast is a welcome sight. What is not needed is the constant name dropping (Ghandi gets mentioned at least twice) and bullies randomly given image issues. The script will even contradict itself in order to deliver its message. At one point, Mrs. Whatsit rhetorically asks Meg how many kinds of evil there, yet later Mrs. Which nonchalantly explains to Meg some of the evils of the universe. (I understand she was trying to explain where all evil comes from, but in doing so, Mrs. Which described different types of evil.) A Wrinkle in Time already is a story of empowerment and finding inner strength to overcome the hive mentality. The movie comes dangerously close to excessive soapboxing.
A Wrinkle in Time is a fine family movie as long as it is not given too much attention. Beyond that, it is a loud and beautiful movie that tells an unexciting story while the acting is lackluster and disappointing. For decades, Disney has done an amazing job of telling stories that captivate all ages. Unfortunately, this is not one of them.
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