A Wrinkle in Time

Review by Hannah Woodhead @goodjobliz

Directed by

Ava DuVernay

Starring

Chris Pine Oprah Winfrey Reese Witherspoon Storm Reid

Anticipation.

Has the hype train overegged this one?

Enjoyment.

Storm Reid gives a pint-sized powerhouse performance. But there’s little else to admire here.

In Retrospect.

All filler, no killer.

For all its ambition and artistic vision, Ava DuVernay’s glossy YA fairy tale fails to deliver.

An old aphorism states that the road to hell is paved with good intentions – the contemporary translation might suggest that the cinemas in hell show only mediocre movies masquerading as something more. Since it was announced in 2016, Ava DuVernay’s Disney blockbuster has been touted as a groundbreaking cinematic epic for the ages. With a (record-breaking for a WOC director) budget of $100 million and an all-star cast including living legend Oprah Winfrey, the hopes of studio execs and audiences around the world have been pinned to this ambitious project, adapted from a beloved American YA novel of the same name.

With such monumental pressure on its shoulders, A Wrinkle in Time was always going to be examined with a fine-tooth comb by audiences the world over. Therein lies the problem with this well-meaning but inherently flawed film: peel back the glossy Disney veneer, and there’s very little depth beneath the surface. Instead of being an epic fantasy adventure with a heart of gold, it’s a strangely hammy sea of cliches, strung together by a convoluted scientific plot that even Neil DeGrasse Tyson would struggle to make sense of.

Its central storyline concerns Meg Murray (Storm Reid), the young daughter of two NASA scientists (played by Gugu Mbatha-Raw and Chris Pine) who travels to a mysterious planet in search of her missing father. She’s accompanied by her precocious six-year-old adoptive brother Charles Wallace, her friend/crush Calvin, and three cosmic entities known as Mrs Whatsit (Reese Witherspoon), Mrs Who (Mindy Kaling) and Mrs. Which (Oprah Winfrey). Ah, and – because searching for her missing father isn’t enough of a story – Meg must battle an all-consuming evil entity known as ‘The It’ along the way.

None of this is groundbreaking, which could perhaps be forgiven if the film managed to do something more remarkable with its psychedelic setting. Aside from a bizarre non-sequitur where Reese Witherspoon transforms into a giant flying lettuce leaf, all the action might as well be taking place squarely on planet Earth. Cheesy CGI set-pieces sequences are set to the thumping quote-unquote inspirational soundtrack, with an incessant raft of songs about being a warrior really hammering home the message about empowerment.

While Oprah Winfrey plays Oprah Winfrey and Chris Pine spends all his screentime sobbing loudly, the sole light within A Wrinkle in Time is Storm Reid, who pivots between anger and sadness and encapsulates everything it is to be a 13-year-old girl dealing with deep emotional trauma. But the film is too keen to tie everything up neatly, suggesting that four years of parental abandonment can be changed in an instant, or that standing up to an abusive parent will suddenly change their behaviour. Its central mantra is a trite ‘Believe in yourself!’ delivered in such a twee voice you can practically taste the glitter being rammed down your throat.

There’s no faulting DuVernay’s ambition and vision. She continues to be a filmmaker to watch, and this film’s failure does not rest solely on her shoulders – there’s simply no escaping its insipid genericness. Too much of a studio film to take risks with its plot or visuals and following too many threads to make narrative sense, it feels like a missed opportunity to create something either totally off the wall, or with a message that really resonates. It’s not enough for a film to have been made with good intentions; it needs to deliver too.

Published 19 Mar 2018

Tags: A Wrinkle in Time Ava DuVernay Chris Pine Gugu Mbatha-Raw Mindy Kaling Oprah Winfrey Reese Witherspoon Storm Reid

Anticipation.

Has the hype train overegged this one?

Enjoyment.

Storm Reid gives a pint-sized powerhouse performance. But there’s little else to admire here.

In Retrospect.

All filler, no killer.

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