Middle schooler Meg Murry (Storm Reid, "12 Years a Slave") is struggling with self confidence and school bullying while still upended by the disappearance of her physicist father (Chris Pine) four years earlier. Alexander Murry had discovered tessering, a phenomenon he believed made intergalactic travel possible. Meg's odd duck adopted younger brother Charlie Wallace (Deric McCabe) freaks her out by introducing her to Mrs. Whatsit (Reese Witherspoon), Mrs. Who (Mindy Kaling) and Mrs. Which (Oprah Winfrey), astral guides who tell Meg her father's discovery was real, but that he may be in great danger. Meg must face her own insecurities as she, along with Charlie and fellow classmate Calvin (Levi Miller, "Better Watch Out"), sets out to save him using "A Wrinkle in Time."
This mawkish, simplistic adaptation of a 1962 children's 'classic' that sounds like it is anything but is like a bad children's version of a Marvel movie sprinkled with Narnia dust. It's about as deep as knock knock joke, introducing ideas it does little if anything to explore. Aside from the elaborately coiffed and costumed Mrs. W's, the production design is dull, the effects, with one exception, same old. Director Ava DuVernay ("Selma," "13th") has built her career firmly rooted in reality and fails to bring any additional dimension to Jennifer Lee ("Frozen") and Jeff Stockwell's ("Bridge to Terabithia") spiritual science fiction fantasy screenplay. Disney already adapted this material as a TV movie in 2003 and should have left well enough alone.
Meg is cruelly taunted by school mean girls about the anniversary of her dad's disappearance, but when Veronica (Rowan Blanchard, TV's 'The Goldbergs') calls Meg's brother crazy on the soccer field, a frustrated Meg plants a ball in her face. Principal Jenkins (André Holland) is frustrated by the once prize pupil as well, telling her it's time to stop using her grief as a crutch. When Calvin comes into her orbit, Meg is confused as he's one of the popular kids, but Calvin has his own secret. When Charlie Wallace (and yes, this is the type of film that always calls a little kid by his full name) opens the door to a stranger, Calvin, Meg and her mom Kate (Gugu Mbatha-Raw) are astonished by the flamboyant appearance and strange words of Mrs. Whatsit. The next day Charlie drags Meg and Calvin into an abandoned home to meet Mrs. Who, another fantastically adorned woman who can only speak using the words of others (Shakespeare, Outkast...). When Mrs. Which joins the others in Meg's backyard, it's time to try a tesseract.
The three awaken with their guides in a magical world (that looks a lot like New Zealand, where it was shot) where flowers 'speak color' and where Mrs. Whatsit transforms into a flying leaf to head towards Mr. Murry, but a black spiky apparition appearing in the sky thwarts their journey. It's Camazotz, Mrs. Which tells them, a planet taken over by a dark evil called The It (voice of David Oyelowo), confirming that Meg's dad is in grave danger. There is a boring visit with a seer, Happy Medium (Zach Galifianakis), before the gang land on Camazotz where Meg quickly finds her dad but Red (Michael Peña) gains control of Charlie Wallace for The It. Meg must use the 'gift' of her flaws to bring her brother back from the evil void. Yawn.
There is so much wasted opportunity in a tale featuring an interracial marriage, their offspring a smart biracial heroine. Mom is a physicist who, except in one flashback, only does mom things. When the astral guides grow weak, suddenly Mrs. Who can speak in her own voice, a mixed message if ever there was one. Their influence and gifts to Meg are so much mumbo jumbo, their integration into the overall tale tenuous at best. There's no real change in Meg that wouldn't have occurred by finding her father.
There are a couple of interesting concepts brought into the third act, Meg 'seeing' hidden dimensions like a live action take on "Inside Out's" Abstract Thought, Red's defeat visualized as a puppet falling to pieces, his strings cut. But Happy Medium's cave looks like an old 'Star Trek' television set and Meg's long withheld ability to see her travel through time and space is nothing new. One thing can be said of "A Wrinkle in Time" - bad wigs have marred many a movie by Kim Kimble's creations are masterpieces of intricate braiding. Costume (Paco Delgado, "The Danish Girl") and makeup (LaLette Littlejohn, "Dreamgirls") are the film's only other notable assets.
Robin did not see this film.
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