A Wrinkle in Time Movie Review
A visual orgasm with an overt message to accept yourself for who you are, A Wrinkle in Time is a movie best geared toward young teens--but that presents a trippy mindfuck of a story that sort of works if you don’t think too hard about it, but doesn’t actually work especially when you start asking theoretical questions like, “Were all of the mathematical equations necessary if love is the right frequency?” or “If love is the right frequency, how come other people who express love don’t just accidentally end up on the other side of the universe?”
A Wrinkle in Time’s biggest marketing hook, aside from being based on an old children’s book that as far as I can tell, based on a non-scientific sampling of friends, random strangers and homeless people I ask on the street, few people actually have truly fond memories of, is that it is directed by Ava DuVernay, a quality filmmaker who happens to be a black female.
Why is that important? She’s the first black female director to helm a film with a $100-million+ budget.
That historic footnote aside, A Wrinkle in Time does fare better than some other Disney sci-fi/fantasy productions, most notably the similar-looking Tomorrowland. Whereas that Brad Bird-directed misfire was drab and dull, DuVernay injects her film with color, energy and happiness. While those elements aren’t always channeled well, A Wrinkle in Time feels vibrant and alive in ways that many of Disney’s non-franchise “epics” oddly tend to struggle with.
Coupled with a diverse cast that makes the film appear more fresh than it actually is, DuVernay propels the frankly batshit crazy story forward, operating at an entertainingly fast pace, which, at the very least, helps gloss over the more confusing aspects and rough patches of the story.
Storm Reid is well cast in the lead role, though she sometimes gets trapped in the cliche “look surprised and act resistant” tropes kid actors tend to fall into (see Daniel Radcliffe in the first Harry Potter, for example). Young Deric McCabe is the real scene-stealer though, as he vacillates between being adorably energetic and downright creepy to an impressive degree. Expect to see him in the Conjuring universe soon.
Levi Miller (star of the ill-fated Pan) is also in this movie for some reason, though his character contributes nothing and he spends most of his time looking bewildered.
As for the adult cast, Chris Pine and Gugu Mbatha-Raw are really good in small roles, but Oprah Winfrey, Reese Witherspoon and especially Mindy Kaling are about as terrible as their costumes and makeup. The screenplay doesn’t give them much to work with, but when three of the biggest stars in the movie look and act like they were ripped right from a neighborhood play, that’s not good.
At its core, A Wrinkle in Time’s message is about self acceptance, and while it comes on a little heavy handed at times, it somehow still feels sincere. A montage where DuVernay depicts evil darkness as permeating our everyday lives - from bullying to eating disorders to bad parenting - is terrific; the use of love as the ultimate weapon against the film’s villain, however, evokes eye rolls.
Despite all its flaws, A Wrinkle in Time is entertaining. It starts off strong, fades in the middle (the kids’ first adventure to another world is colorful but pretty vacant), and then kicks into high gear when the story drops the characters in the place-they-shouldn’t-go. It’s weird, crazy, and will probably scare little kids, but who cares about little kids?
Its problem is that once you leave the theater and start thinking about the movie, it’s hard to envision ever having much desire to ever watch it again. Visually rich as it is, and as diverse as its cast is, A Wrinkle in Time lacks the depth and cohesion to make it anything more than a mildly interesting, one-hit wonder.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.