From a historical perspective, Ava DuVernay’s hotly anticipated adaptation of Madeleine L’Engle’s YA classic A Wrinkle in Time is a total game changer. The first $100 million-plus budgeted live action film to be directed by an African-American woman, Wrinkle is definitely a big deal for all involved – especially DuVernay, who, in another first for a female African-American director, is slated to helm DC comic’s The New Gods for Warner Brothers. But as a movie, Wrinkle has, to put it mildly, more than a few major wrinkles to iron out.
Honestly, I could look past the film’s garish, hideously bright costumes and color palette and dopey, blissed-out screenplay, but the fact that huge sections of Wrinkle seem to drag on forever is a total deal breaker. I’m sorry, but when a movie is this weird, it simply cannot afford to also be this painfully boring. And the worst part is, Wrinkle isn’t even fun in a campy, so-bad-it’s-good kind of way either. And when you can’t laugh at the site of Oprah Winfrey playing Mrs. Which, a four-story-tall supernatural being spouting cheesy Oprah-isms in full-on drag queen make-up and puffy, aluminum foil dresses, well, you might as well call it a day.
Equally unfunny and just as strangely off-putting are the supporting performances by Reese Witherspoon (Wild, Inherent Vice) and a horribly miscast Mindy Kaling (The Mindy Project, The Night Before) as Winfrey’s fellow mischief makers, Mrs. Whatsit and Mrs. Who, respectively. I don’t remember enough of the book to say for certain that these characters weren’t as annoying on the page as they are here, but I definitely don’t remember them being described as dressing like characters from a low-rent production of The Wiz either. I mean, seriously, if DuVernay and company wanted the trio to look like drag queens, they should have cast actual drag queens. It would have been a lot more fun.
Opening in present-day Los Angeles, Wrinkle introduces us to a gifted, but troubled, 13-year old girl named Meg Murry (newcomer Storm Reid). Still trying to come to terms with the mysterious disappearance of her scientist father, Dr. Alexander Murry (Wonder Woman and Hell or High Water’s Chris Pine) when she was younger, Meg tries to make life as normal as possible for herself and her genius-in-the-making younger brother, Charles Wallace (newcomer Deric McCabe). But non-stop bullying from the mean girls at school and the waning affections of her still grieving scientist mother, Dr. Kate Murry (played by Beauty and the Beasts’ always amazing Gugu Mbatha-Raw), make life increasingly unbearable. And then, just when things look their darkest, Meg and Charles Wallace are offered an unexpected chance to find their father and change everything back to the way it once was.
And that’s where things get dicey. For while I’m all about folding time and surfing the astral plane with three freaky spirit guides, the film’s depiction of Meg and Charles Wallace’s actual journey is so tedious and visually uninspired that you’ll want them to give up and turn around halfway through. But they don’t. And like a horribly uncool music video or TV ad campaign you can’t escape the movie just keeps going, getting worse and uglier at every turn. And while I totally get that the beauty of sci-fi and fantasy visuals is very often in the eye of the beholder, my eyes had a hard time even staying open until the end of the movie with this one.
That said, Reid offers up a top-notch central performance as Meg and her co-star Levi Miller – who delivers on the promise he showed in the equally awful Pan – is no slouch in the charisma department either as Meg’s classmate/romantic interest, Calvin. Standing out from the film’s blinding, unicorn-barf scenery like two fresh-faced beacons of normalcy, these guys have star-wattage to burn, and I, for one, can’t wait to see them paired up again in something much more deserving of their talents. You know, like anything but this movie.
Now playing on select Virgin Atlantic, Delta, Emirates, EVA Air, Air France, and Singapore Airlines flights worldwide, A Wrinkle in Time is also available via streaming at Amazon Video, Google Play, and iTunes.