“Love is always here, even if you don’t feel it,” says Chris Pine’s character in “A Wrinkle in Time.” Well, we didn’t really feel it either. Fortunately, lots of youngsters did. Based on the wildly popular novel by Madeleine L’Engle, this star-studded Disney flick is clearly for kids, but the dazzling visuals are worth the price of admission for anyone.
This one has a message for everyone, from parental abandonment (popular Disney theme), bullying, stereotypes, diversity, family and good vs. evil. In addition to Pine, the cast is adorned with Oprah Winfrey (as opposed to other Oprah’s), Reese Witherspoon, Mindy Kaling, Zach Galifianakis, Michael Pena and Gugu Mbatha-Raw.
The problem is the all-star cast is seemingly paraded through in their stunningly outrageous costumes to feature their celebrity value more than advancing the storyline. Other than Witherspoon, who is a hoot, others seem to pose and preen for their “Alice in Wonderland” moments and don’t get much chance to actually act.
Fourteen-year-old Storm Reid takes the lead role of Meg Murry, child physics prodigy. For the last four years, Meg has been devastated by the disappearance of her loving father (Pine), who had been working on a revolutionary form of space travel. Mr. Murry asks, “What if we are here for a reason? What if we are part of something truly divine?”
Bullied by “mean girls” and disinterested in her studies, there seems to be no hope for Meg until little brother Charles Wallace (Deric McCabe) discovers three mysterious astral travelers, Mrs. Whatsit (Witherspoon), Mrs. Who (Kaling) and Mrs. Which (Oprah). Joined by Meg’s new friend, classmate Calvin (Levi Miller), the children are off to see the wizard. Actually, they are on a dangerous cosmic journey through wondrous lands in hopes of finding the missing father.
The children are cautioned about the darkness they will face. A planet possesses all the evil in the universe. Mrs. Which warns, “The only thing faster than light is the darkness.” Their challenge is to bring the best in themselves and their light to the world. On their journey, they meet Happy Medium (Galifianakis), Red (Pena) and eventually, The It (David Oyelowo), who turn Charles Wallace into a “nastee widdo kid.”
Filmed primarily in New Zealand, the scenery is breathtaking, CGI graphics stunning and costumes so dazzling, they somewhat detract from the storyline. However, the kids in the audience seemed mesmerized by the entire presentation. For us, the story seemed to be more a string of vignettes than a cohesive narrative.
Disney went all in for this production and spared no expense. Although it’s somewhat flawed, Director Ava DuVernay does a credible job of ensuring the entire production is beautifully rendered. Even when it doesn’t make much sense and seems overly dramatic for the material, it is mostly enjoyable throughout.
A highlight for everyone in the audience was to see the kids flying and soaring high over the panoramic landscapes. We might have felt differently if the rest of the movie was this much fun. Every scene had so much potential but seemed to get dragged down in a slog of solemn dialog. Storm Reid is a capable youngster with a bright future but probably not strong enough to carry such a big budget feature.
“A Wrinkle in Time” is 109 minutes and rated PG for thematic elements and peril. A television version aired in 2003 but the mostly Caucasian cast has been replaced with a multi-cultural one. Fortunately, today’s children won’t much notice. This beloved children’s classic is a kid flick, first and foremost, but a little too intense for small fry.
Disney seems to reach out to the adult audience with scientific curiosity and empowered women. But, that wasn’t enough to hold our interest. It’s ambitious, imaginative and generates credible wonder but almost collapses under the weight of its own production. All Disney rides are of the highest quality, but for adults, some are just not that fun.
Ron’s Rating: C
Leigh’s Rating: C