A Wrinkle In Time

 

            This is a movie you want to like, but can't.  The casting is good, the plot is based on the classic children's book by Madeline L'Engle, but somehow the screenplay leaves much of the substance of the novel behind, fails to develop the characters, and settles for a vague, feel-good-about-yourself kind of moral that is lamentably lightweight, even for children.

            Meg (Storm Reid) is a pubescent student who's not been “meeting her potential” lately.  Her father (Chris Pine) has disappeared for several years, and she's not adjusted well.  He's supposedly some brilliant scientist experimenting with moving through space through mental trajectory, but it appears he's gotten stuck somewhere, so the Universe sets out to help Meg find her Dad.

            The Universe manifests itself in three Good-Fairy-type personas, Mrs. Whatsit (Reese Witherspoon), Mrs. Who (Mindy Kaling), and Mrs. Which (Oprah Winfrey).   They invest Meg with the power to transport herself, along with her brilliant little brother, Charles Wallace (Deric McCabe), and a friendly classmate, Calvin (Levi Miller).  The three other-worldly women are an impressive sight, but their personalities aren't developed enough to help us get to know their uniqueness.  Calvin does nothing except follow along.  Charles Wallace at least has some range:  he gets to be both enthused at the beginning and end of the journey, and mean in the middle.  It seems for a while there, he was inhabited by “It,” which is the force of darkness.  It's vaguely defined as whatever keeps you from loving, and broadens to include bullies, and even indicates that jealousy can also be an obstacle.  The light and the darkness contrast was developed in the original novel as a spiritual struggle, even with scriptural references, but in this film all religious implications have been carefully excised.

            I'm thinking that there are lots of kids out there whose fathers have wandered off or made themselves scarce.  And no doubt many of those kids would love to re-connect with their “lost” Dad.  But the result here seems to imply that if the kid tries hard enough, not only can she bring her Dad back into her life, she can even get her Mom and Dad back together.  And yet there are many kids for whom that scenario is not possible, much less desirable, and wishing for it isn't going to make it so.

            Yes, there are some creative images on the screen.  But it feels like style at the expense of substance.  Alas, it's an opportunity lost.

 

Dr. Ronald P. Salfen, DFW Film Critics Association