After a promising start that transitions from a hypnotic shot through the clouds to a mildly touching scene of familial bonding between Mr. Murry (Chris Pine) and his young daughter Meg (Lyric Wilson and later played as a teen by Storm Reid), we flash forward to present day: Meg, now a quietly troubled early teen and her boy genius younger brother Charles Wallace (Deric McCabe) are both longing for their father who's gone missing. Through some flashbacks we learn that Mr. Murry, and his wife Mrs. Murry (Gugu Mbatha-Raw), were working on a "tesseract" theory, spitting lingo on space, time, a fifth dimension and all that jazz; I'm not being facetious either -- the film glosses over a lot of this science stuff too. In short, Mr. Murry has been stuck in a different dimension for four years, as explained by the other worldly (literally) Mrs. Whatsit (Reese Witherspoon), who likes to invite herself into other people's living rooms unannounced. Mrs. Whatsit soon recruits Meg, Charles Wallace and Meg's boy crush (don't worry about his name, his character is underwritten anyway) to embark on a dimension-hopping journey to rescue Mr. Murray. On their "adventures" they meet the rest of Mrs. Whatsit's Hocus Pocus crew, Mrs. Who (Mindy Kaling) and the 20-foot-tall Mrs. Which (Oprah Winfrey), in addition to a mishmash of dimensions and planetary beings (all photographed handsomely by Tobias A. Schliessler).
I read A Wrinkle in Time, like many students, in grade school and I recall liking it very much. Yet, even at that young age, I remember thinking it was pretty impossible for it to ever be a successful movie. Hell, if people said The Catcher in the Rye is "unfilmable," then what chance does A Wrinkle in Time -- whose antagonist is called The Black Thing and is described as a "smoky haze" in the novel -- have?
But that's not even the film's biggest problem. It's the messiness of the script by Jennifer Lee (Frozen) and Jeff Stockwell (Bridge to Terabithia) that proves the most problematic. It never builds enough believable or urgent emotion in any one sequence (or dimension, for that matter). If A Wrinkle in Time is not meandering on a visual flourish, then it is hurriedly trying to tidy up a scene with its unearned emotional flailing. These child actors are talented but their performances are undermined by the shitty dialogue and tone-deaf editing.
I think DuVernay is a talented filmmaker. I thought her Selma was one of the very best films of 2014. However, A Wrinkle in Time is a failure -- but it's not entirely her fault. Disney is a big machine and maybe there were just too many cooks in the kitchen. Who knows. I do believe DuVernay loved the material but maybe she was just too close it to see that the big picture didn't work? Whatever the case, I get the sense that Disney is already trying to do damage control for the film's reception. Movie theatres have been playing featurettes in place of trailers showing the cast and crew of A Wrinkle in Time gush over how many persons and passions were involved in the making of it. I'm sure think pieces will be written on A Wrinkle in Time and they will do everything but talk about the actual film itself. Whatever the case, this will go down as one of the very worst films of the year.