If I was a girl between the age of 8 and 10, I would love A Wrinkle In Time, the live action adaptation of Madeleine L’Engle’s classic sci-fi fantasy novel of the same name. And if I was the parent of a girl between the age of 8 and 10, I’d want her to see this movie for all of the positive encouragement it would give her. But as someone who is neither a girl, that young, nor the parent of a girl that young, but is a fan of the book, it pains me to say that A Wrinkle In Time is just awful.
Directed by Ava DuVernay (Selma), A Wrinkle In Time stars 12 Years A Slave‘s Storm Reid as Meg Murray, a scientific genius of a teenager who has trouble in school because her dad (Star Trek‘s Chris Pine) has been missing for four years. But then, on the anniversary of his disappearance, a trio of strange women — played by Oprah Winfrey, Reese Witherspoon, and Mindy Kaling — turn up like Glinda from The Wizard Of Oz to tell Meg, her little brother Charles Wallace, and her pal Calvin that dear old dad isn’t dead, he’s in outer space. You see, dad was an astrophysicist, and he and Meg’s mom (Gugu Mbatha-Raw from The Cloverfield Paradox) had theorized a way to travel across the galaxy using a tesseract (no, not the one from the first Avengers). Using this same ability, the three wise women take Meg, Charles Wallace, and Calvin into space to find Meg’s dad and bring him home.
And this is where things go off the rails. From the moment A Wrinkle In Times lands on an alien world, things go horribly, and often laughably awry, thanks in large part to costumes and special effects that look like they were done on a budget, and not a big one. Granted, it’s probably hard to render a flying plant creature without making me think of a big piece of lettuce, but I feel like it could’ve at least looked like a real piece of lettuce.
This is also where the dialog in A Wrinkle In Time starts to get cheesy as well, especially when it talks about love and light and other positive things that wouldn’t have been so bad, were they not so heavy-handed, obvious, and lacking anything close to subtlety.
And A Wrinkle In Time just gets worse from here, ultimately coming to a rather uninteresting ending that leaves you feeling like you didn’t go on an adventure so much as you witnessed a disaster.
Even the songs in A Wrinkle In Time is obvious and clumsy. While it makes sense that they’d be anthems of love and light, they’re so front and center in their respective scenes that they momentarily turn this movie into a bad music video.
Now, it’s important to remember that A Wrinkle In Time — both movie and the novel — are a fable set in space. This isn’t an action/adventure tale like Star Wars, or a sweeping fantasy epic like The Lord Of The Rings. And while it is decidedly more for kids, the novel at least has a sense of wonder that makes it engaging no matter how old you are. But the film version lacks the book’s sense of adventure, and is so cloying, so sickly-sweet, so ham-fisted in its cliche declarations of positivity that, when I got home from the screening I had to crank up the Black Sabbath just to reset my equilibrium.
Or, to put it another way, it’s Oprah Winfrey as a science fiction movie, with all the uplifting sentiment that implies.
In fact, the only thing entertaining thing about A Wrinkle In Time is the cast, and even then, only in part. Chris Pine and Gugu Mbatha-Raw are both convincing as Meg’s smart and caring parents (though, admittedly, they weren’t in this much), while Reese Witherspoon has some entertaining moments as the wry Mrs. Whatsit. But the highlight by far is Storm Reid, whose performance as Meg is nuanced and believable. If only her dialog wasn’t covered in so much emotional sugar.
In the end, A Wrinkle In Time may entertain some girls who, ironically, aren’t as old as Meg. And its messages of positivity and believing in yourself will make their parents glad their kids are seeing it. But those same parents will hate everything else about this total misfire.