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‘A Wrinkle in Time’ is a cautionary tale for those who want the movie to be as good as the book

March 10, 2018

For as long as they’ve made movies based on books the debate has raged on – is the book better than the movie or vice versa? As a friend once pointed out to me, it often depends on which you experienced first … assuming it made a positive impression on you, of course.

 

As I ready myself for the “Ready Player One” adaptation later this month, I must keep that advice in mind … especially as I saw the looks of confusion and disappointment from people I chatted with after the screening for Disney’s “A Wrinkle in Time.”

Reese Witherspoon is Mrs. Whatsit and Storm Reid is Meg Murry in Disney's “A Wrinkle in Time.” (Photo by Atsushi Nishijima © 2017 Disney Enterprises, Inc. All Rights Reserved)

Based on Madeleine L'Engle’s 1962 novel, “Wrinkle” follows the trials and tribulations of a young girl named Meg (Storm Reid) and her brainy younger brother Charles Wallace (Deric McCabe) as they come to grips with the disappearance of their father, Alex (Chris Pine), a brilliant NASA scientist who went missing after announcing that he could travel the universe using nothing more than his mind.

 

Just as hope is beginning to fade, the duo is visited by three mysterious and powerful women – Mrs. Which (Oprah Winfrey), Mrs. Who (Mindy Kaling), and Mrs. Whatsit (Reese Witherspoon) – who inform them that not only is their father alive, but he’s being held captive by an the most powerful evil known to humanity.

 

It’s now up to brother and sister – with the help of their new friends and Meg’s classmate, Calvin (Levi Miller) – to find their father and bring him home once and for all.

Storm Reid is Meg Murry and Levi Miller is Calvin O'Keefe in Disney's “A Wrinkle in Time.” (Photo by Atsushi Nishijima © 2017 Disney Enterprises, Inc. All Rights Reserved)

The first – and probably only thing – I love about this movie is the idea of traveling through space with mysterious allies. That, however, is probably more based on my love of “Doctor Who” and the story put in place by L'Engle than on anything done by director Ava DuVernay or screenwriter Jennifer Lee.

 

The things that stand out as particularly hackneyed are dialogue and the virtually non-existent character development. The dialogue is seemingly devoid of any realism or emotion, despite there being a lot of it. It’s truly a case of talking a lot, but never really saying anything. And in terms of character development, it’s not really a thing – the characters are just kind of plopped in front of you with no explanation and no real reason to care about any of them.

 

There are a couple of positives though – namely the performance of Reid, who steals every scene she’s in (so basically every scene in the movie), and the visual effects. The planets these weary travelers visit are beautiful and colorful and interesting to look at.

 

Sadly, most everything else is a waste.

Oprah Winfrey is Mrs. Which, Reese Witherspoon is Mrs. Whatsit and Mindy Kaling is Mrs. Who in Disney's“A Wrinkle in Time.” (Photo by Atsushi Nishijima © 2017 Disney Enterprises, Inc. All Rights Reserved)

Having never read the book, I have no basis for comparison. But the consensus from those I talked to is that the movie fell flat in all of the places the book didn’t.

 

Also a bit problematic is the MPAA rating. Despite its PG rating, which would suggest it would be alright for most everyone, there are a couple of scenes that might be a little scary for young children, and there’s a couple of off-color jokes (obviously thrown in to appease adults) that could cause some awkward glances and/or conversations between adult and child/children.

 

When comparing what I have heard about the book compared to what I saw on screen, “A Wrinkle in Time” might very well be a case of regardless which came first for you (book or film) that the book is far superior to the movie. I’ll remember that and temper my expectations accordingly as my favorite books get their turn on the big screen.

 

★★ of ★★★★★

 

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