A Wrinkle in Time Review
If no notice had been served that Ava DuVernay was helming this adaptation of Madeleine L’Engle’s novel, there would hardly be any way of discerning her involvement in the film at all, apart from the casting of a young black girl in the lead role. Despite all of the criticism Disney receives for being a money grabbing machine, the vast majority of their releases are well received by the public and critics alike. However, it is because of films like A Wrinkle in Time that the Disney of today has a reputation for creating stories that appear as if they have been designed by committee. And with $100m sunk into its production DuVernay's fingerprints barely leave a mark on the surface of this crudely manufactured product.
Regardless of the quality of the source material, what we are given onscreen is nothing short of a chaotic mess. An overindulgence of CGI completely robs the film of a coherent visual scheme with the effects team opting to launch a random selection of colours at the screen in the hope a few of them stick. As a story about a young girl who embarks on a search across the universe to find her missing father, it manages to turn the most simplistic of ideas into a complicated narrative that will leave most adults scratching their heads, let alone its target audience of 8 to 12-year-olds.
Meg (Storm Reid) is the girl in question, a young student who has struggled to deal with the sudden disappearance of her father, Dr Alex Murry (Chris Pine), some years ago. She lives with mother, Dr Kate Murry (Gugu-Mbatha Raw) and annoying younger brother, Charles Wallace (Deric McCabe), and has become something of an outcast at school as anger over her absent father continues to fester. Out of nowhere three mysterious saviours appear in the form of Mrs. Whatsit (Reese Witherspoon), Mrs. Who (Mindy Kaling) and Mrs. Which (Oprah) (who are they married to?) - a group of over-stylised supernatural beings who offer to help Meg find her father by freeing him from the grasp of a dark energy force called the "The It" (the unrecognisable voice of David Oyelowo).
How Dr Murry ended up halfway across the universe is loosely explained away amidst an avalanche of new age babble about love, positive and negative energy and the like, in a candy coloured world that looks like an amalgamation of any number of children's films from the past 20 years. Where exactly the group travel to and how they arrive there remains as mysterious as the lack of consideration given to the costume and world design. Oprah's real-world omnipresence first manifests itself as a giant, towering figure smugly overlooking the annoying quirks of Kaling's and Witherspoon's characters, before finally shrinking to human size and delivering a performance equally as painful to sit through. Reid is serviceable as young Meg, although you never get a sense of her inner emotional struggle or find a way to empathise enough with her character.
The messages being delivered to young girls are at least positive and inspiring, and if they can see beyond the lack of logic that takes them from point A to B the film would have done what it set out to achieve. There are more than enough crudely engineered moments of emotional manipulation to force a few tears and just in case, John Jones' near ever-present score is always there to remind the audience when to feel something. For a film so focussed on establishing a connection with the human spirit A Wrinkle in Time is sorely lacking in that department and remains an appropriately cold and distant journey through space and time.