Disney's "A Wrinkle in Time," based on a much beloved 1962 novel by the late Madeleine L'Engle, could have been one of the best sci-fi fantasy movies to come along. Sadly, it will end up a wrinkle best smoothed away.
Director Ava DuVernay's film feels faithful to the classic children's book, though it leaves out some bits, such as the Aunt Beast moments, to squeeze the story into 109 minutes. And while the visuals are spectacular, DuVernay's treatment feels too clinical, leaving out the sense of wonder and discovery that should accompany such a film.
The movie is supposed to be an epic adventure, but instead it feels like a taxi ride to somewhere with beautiful scenery in between.
Storm Reid's performance as protagonist Meg Murray, a sullen and rebellious teenager, is great, but Meg's overwhelming reserve also makes the first two-thirds of the movie a bit of a pain to watch. It's hard to feel for her character -- or this could just be the adult in me speaking. Teens may relate to her more.
The film depicts Meg as brilliant, but terribly hurt due to her NASA scientist dad (played by Chris Pine) having gone missing for four years, while school, and life in general, sucks.
Hope, however, comes in the form of Meg's exuberant adopted brother, Charles Wallace, played by Deric McCabe, whose onscreen presence is so joyful it makes scenes without him a slog to watch in comparison. He meets the three enigmatic cosmic beings known as the Mrs. Ws, who take him, his sister and new friend Calvin O'Keefe (Levi Miller) on a journey through the galaxy visiting cool-looking planets to look for her long-lost dad.
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As the film crawls toward the weak climax, Meg finally becomes a lot more likeable. You start caring more about her as a character, but only for a short time, as the film closes too soon. So if you like the new lovable Meg, you'll have to wait for an eventual sequel (the book is the first of a quintet)… that is, if the movie doesn't flop at the box office.
While the film's pacing and plot hardly impress, there's still much to be said about its cast. Oprah Winfrey as the stately and wise Mrs. Which feels right, and Reese Witherspoon as Mrs. Whatsit nearly steals the show with her wacky lines. Mindy Kaling's Mrs. Who, on the other hand, feels like a character that could have been written out given her lack of importance in the movie.
DuVernay got a $100 million budget for the film, making her the first African-American woman to direct a live-action picture with coffers that large.
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DuVernay seems to have spent most of the $100 million on the special effects, and the results are stunning. The lush greenery of the planet Uriel feels familiar and alien at the same time, thanks to some beautifully animated flowers (to tell you more would be a spoiler!), while the creepy tentacled world of IT packs the evil punch the movie needs. The three Mrs. Ws get awesome-looking costumes, though it's really Oprah's flamboyant blonde hairstyles and sparkly eyebrows that catch the eye.
Given that the movie's aimed at kids, it's a safe choice to take them to see this. Adults, though, may want to just give this a miss, as it lacks the smart winks and nods some Pixar films tack in for their older audience.
Disney's "A Wrinkle in Time" opens in theatres on March 9 in the US, March 22 in Australia and March 23 in the UK.
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