A beloved novel gets absolutely slaughtered with A Wrinkle in Time, one of 2018’s worst movies—and an embarrassment for the great talents involved.
Madeleine L’Engle’s 1962 novel was adapted by Disney once before with an also-lousy direct-to-video release back in 2003. The book has been bouncing around Hollywood for decades, with many attempts to bring it to the big screen being aborted. It’s a sad, sad thing that Disney finally took the plunge, dropped a lot of money (more than $100 million)—and came up with this mess.
Compounding the sadness would be that it is directed by Ava DuVernay, who made the excellent Martin Luther King Jr. biopic Selma. While that film had a cohesive vision, excellent technical credits and powerhouse acting all around, her new film has none of these things. It’s total chaos.
Crackpot dreamy scientist Mr. Murry (Chris Pine) is obsessed with interstellar travel, and believes that wrinkles in time could be used to travel light years through space. It’s never really established what he truly wants to achieve through such travel, but his obsession eventually leads to his disappearance for four years. He’s apparently traveling through the universe with no real way to get home, and no real sense of purpose.
A ragtag group of kids led by Murry’s oldest daughter, Meg (Storm Reid), and precocious adopted son, Charles Wallace (Deric McCabe), set out on an ill-conceived journey to find their dad, accompanied by Reese Witherspoon as crazy Mrs. Whatsit; Mindy Kaling as eccentric Mrs. Who; and Oprah Winfrey as the ponderous Mrs. Which. Mrs. Whatsit speaks fast; Mrs. Who speaks quirkily; and Mrs. Which talks really slow. That’s this film’s best attempt at humor and distinguishable characters.
The journey leads them through various, horribly designed set pieces and terrible, candy-colored CGI. When movie magic is present, art direction, cinematography and editing combine to transport viewers into new worlds and visions. In Wrinkle, these things combine to look like a bad office costume party, at which somebody spiked the brownies with bad weed.
The film seems poorly planned from its very first scenes, as if the director really had no idea what to film or how to film it. It’s abundantly clear that many of the sequences didn’t get enough coverage shots, so nonsensical editing is constantly occurring over dialogue that doesn’t match the actions. Cinematographer Tobias A. Schliessler totally blows it in the lighting department, opting for a dull sheen on the movie. The sets and costuming/makeup are laughingly bad, reminiscent of the eyesores that were Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland movies.
A prime example of the elements not coming together would be early scenes in which Oprah is supposed to be a giant. DuVernay employs a mixture of forced perspective and green-screen effects that keep Oprah disconnected from her fellow performers. She probably rarely shared a studio with them, and the finished product makes it seem that way. Her character just looks like it’s roaming around in its own realm, even though she’s actually talking to others.
Zach Galifianakis shows up as … well, I’m really not sure what the hell he is supposed to be. I just know he looked and sounded stupid. The same can be said for Michael Peña. Witherspoon at least tries to be fun in her thankless role—although she’s not fun at all. I’m just saying it’s evident she tried to be fun, while Kaling, like Oprah, looks totally lost.
Now that I’ve watched the film, I’m not sure what happened or what was supposed to be happening. Perhaps A Wrinkle in Time is a novel that was, is and always shall be unadaptable. It’s admirable that DuVernay and crew took a stab at such a cherished, complicated work.
Actually, no … forget about that. They should’ve left this material alone, and their finished product is proof it was a project well beyond their capabilities. When they saw the script, they should’ve ran far, far away. I was angry while watching it, and I’m even angrier here while recapping it. Movies this bad should never happen—especially with this level of talent involved.
A Wrinkle in Time is now playing at theaters across the valley, in a variety of formats.