A ‘Wrinkle’ in the Script
“A Wrinkle In Time”
By Jason Wiese
Sometimes a movie manages to earn your appreciation despite failing to entertain you. In my case, this usually happens with films that are visually appealing and even thought-provoking, yet something is missing from making the experience feel complete. Among those that come to mind are 1982’s Blade Runner, which was a groundbreaking technical achievement with a timeless commentary on technology and paranoia but without any likable characters to carry a lifeless narrative, or 1931’s Frankenstein, which, despite being an important landmark in the horror genre, is not much more than tasteless B-movie schlock.
My latest addition to this list is Disney’s big-screen adaptation of Madeleine L’Engle’s classic novel A Wrinkle in Time. From director Ava DuVernay, the film is a beautiful spectacle with first-rate special effects and a message that needs to be heard more than ever this day and age. I would recommend it just for that, if the film had not been burdened with such a weak script.
Meg Murry (Storm Reid) is a girl who has been struggling with life since the disappearance of her astrophysicist father (Chris Pine) four years earlier. Everyday she faces the unusually harsh ridicule of the school bully (former Disney Channel star Rowan Blanchard), the embarrassment of her brilliant, yet rambunctious, adopted 6-year-old brother Charles Wallace (Deric McCabe), and the challenging conflict between her and her adult peers, including her mother (Gugu Mbatha-Raw). But all of that is about to change!
Through Charles Wallace, Meg is introduced to three eternal beings: the exuberant Mrs. Whatsit (Reese Witherspoon), the wise Mrs. Who (Mindy Kaling) and the inspiring Mrs. Which (Oprah Winfrey playing an elaborate version of herself, basically). The magical ladies tell Meg that her father is lost somewhere in a place not only beyond earth, but beyond space and time. Joined by their new friend Calvin (Levi Miller), whose only contribution to the film is as Meg’s love interest, Meg and Charles Wallace follow the Misses on an adventure they will never forget… but the audience, especially the adults whose children dragged them to it, most likely will.
I imagine that this was a project that Disney felt compelled to rush to completion. So, they hired one of the hottest filmmakers in the industry to direct, got one of their screenwriting good luck charms Jennifer Lee (Wreck-It Ralph, Frozen, Zootopia) to collaborate with Bridge to Terabithia screenwriter Jeff Stockwell to adapt L’Engle’s novel, gave Oprah top-billing and thought they had a visually stunning, thought-provoking, youth-inspiring golden goose on their hands. Admittedly, Wrinkle succeeds on those aspects. However, if they would have put as much imagination into developing compelling characters, crafting believable dialogue or really giving a fully realized point to any of their creative choices, the film could have been one of Disney’s best live action family films in years. Unfortunately, it is merely a pleasant-looking, but mediocre kids film.
I once said in my review of the 2016 screen adaptation of Rick Yancey’s sci-fi novel The 5th Wave that said film was “a much-needed reminder that literature should not be handled as a property but as a responsibility to properly translate the writer’s vision to screen and not a reason to get readers to fill the seats.” Having not read A Wrinkle in Time, I have no frame of reference to support the quality of the book but considering it has been heralded as a classic for more than 50 years and spawned four sequels, I imagine it must be more compelling than this missed opportunity. Therefore, I recommend, instead of taking your children to see this film, take them to the library.