A Wrinkle in Time

The oddest genre Disney has trouble trying to make work is young adult fantasy. Starting in the 2000s, the studio has had mixed results in trying to adapt both novels and their own concepts (Bridge to Terabithia, Race to Witch Mountain, Oz the Great and Powerful) that they feel are worth adapting. Most common issues include bad writing, translation of the source material, mishandling of good ideas, miscasting, big named celebrities used to distract from the tonal inconsistencies and story problems, bland or unlikable characters, and messages shoehorned in that come out of nowhere. This brings us to A Wrinkle in Time, Disneys recent efforts in adapting the 1962 novel of the same name, which they actually attempted to do back in 2003 in a made for TV format (it didn't go well). What this new adaptation has going for it is director Ava DuVernay (the first black female to direct a live action movie with a budget over $100 milion), writer Jennifer Lee (from Frozen), and a large diverse female cast. Unfortunately the terrible marketing was only displaying CGI visuals over the story while boasting its celebrity cast and received mixed to negative critical reception. While I had a bad gut feeling about it, this had been requested that I take a chance to find something worth of value so I entered the theater ready to find positivity but I left it horrified and irritated at the level of incompetence.

Note: I haven't read the 1962 novel this is based on and will be judging this as its own movie.

Plot: The story follows the daughter of an astrophysicist working with her younger brother, a classmate, and three astral travelers to find her father who's being held captive on a distant planet by an universe destroying evil called The It (yes seriously). If this premise sounds very bizarre and weird, the execution is incoherent and convoluted. It's abundantly clear that the source material was too much for the studio to handle because there are concepts that seemed to have been watered down just to get by for the family demographic. One of the noticeable issues is the heavy handed editing of the plot since the first act jumps from one scene to the next without feeling any impact whatsoever (to the point where some scenes from the trailers aren't even in there and meeting certain characters is done off screen). It's attempting to set up some sympathy for the lead protagonist, but because the movie wants to jump into CGI land so bad, it prefers to simply ignore the "Show Don't Tell" rule of character development instead opting to spoon-feed its exposition. It renders any empathy and later moments of change to feeling very empty instead of having any value because of missing scenes (though considering how badly directed the acting is, an extended cut wouldn't help matters at all).

Once they start moving into the CGI planets, the excess of the computer effects runs wild for the rest of the runtime but they don't have any impact at all and are just an excuse for the visual eye candy. The second and third act are erratic in moving at a fast pace with rushing up to a forced problem and resolution. What makes things worse is there are moments where pop music is playing during overhead sky shots (aka screen saver shots) and the science exposition from the adults is inaudible to hear to the point of needing subtitles. If you're wondering why the darkness of the universe has kidnapped the father, don't bother with thinking about it because it's never established what reason he was. It's main focus is to display a diverse cast, a message of empowerment and self-importance, and to fulfill plenty of pointless irritating cliches most commonly found among modern recent Disney Channel original movies. It's easy to see what the good intention was but this needed a better director and writer better suited for a movie that's taking itself seriously instead of awkwardly shoe horning in humor.

The Kids: The new crop of children characters from the House of Mouse are Meg Murry (Storm Reid), Charles Wallace (Deric McCabe), and Calvin O'Keefe (Levi Miller). Something to keep in mind is that a lot of the focus of the film are around these aforementioned kids and that they would have to be directed well into acting well for their respective roles, however, the problem lies in not only the end results but also the dialog. It's hard to wonder how the dialog in the source material was in the 1960s but they way these kids react and talk isn't how they should normally interact with each other and their present situation. Meg is a cold, distant, troubled daughter of an astrophysicist apparently with self-confidence issues. Storm Reid is among the best out of the three but only when she's directed to actually emote (there isn't much of it), which is a shame because she has the most promising chance of a career and her role is very unlikable due to the nature of the writing.

One of the most annoying features present here is how the camera loves to use obnoxious close up shots on Meg and Charles Wallace. They come out of nowhere throughout the film and are just unsettling to watch their creepy smiles, particularly on the latter. Charles Wallace and Calvin are Meg's younger brother and classmate, respectively. The camera loves to focus on Deric for his over acting nature to where he reminds me of Max from the Netflix series Fuller House and takes that irritating level from his mannerisms and his voice to new extremes, while being dressed in that stereotypical button up long sleeve shirt with a sweater vest (yes that cliche). Levi suffers heavily from bad dialog, his lack of personality, being forced to strip his layers of t-shirts just to be turned into some Calvin Klein model (but for tweens), and just a bland forgettable forced love interest that has a lack of chemistry with Storm Reid. For all of that being said, it's sad being these actors who could have such promising careers to move forward with being hinder by the production of this feature and are trying what they can with such little character development that's swapped for meaningless Disney pop song cliched propaganda.

The Adults: As for the adults, they fare somewhat better but not by much. Since most of you are wondering, let's start with the astral travelers named Mrs. Which (Oprah Winfrey), Mrs. Whatsit (Reese Witherspoon), and Mrs. Who (Mindy Kaling) (yes those are their names and they are so forgettable that I had to look them up to write them down here). The first former does a better job compared to them by having some screen presence, when you can actually comprehend the words audibly, and has a nice scene that deserves some credit in delivering some good intentions with a moral message (even though the build up for it was sloppily cut down). As for the latter two, they aren't worth commenting much on since Reese is basically playing herself except she can transform into a lettuce creature (because of course she can can do that) while the Mindy is a fortune cookie who quotes historical people (has the least amount of lines out of the 3). Zach Galifianakis, who portrays a happy medium, could have been cut out and was unnecessary with his role having 5 minutes of screen time that's pretty quick. The only actors who fare better are Chris Pine and Gugu Mbathu-Raw as Meg and Charles Wallace's parents because both were capable enough to bring in some needed emotional moments despite lack of screen time, though the former deserves credit for being a team player no matter how stupid his lines he has to deliver are.

Diversity and Empowerment: Some of you SJWs (social justice warriors) might be thinking this guy sure must hate diversity and empowerment messages in movies if he's bashing hard on this film. Actually I appreciate both when they are utilized well within the context of their subject matter and prefer not to be told "Just have fun and be a kid" (don't tell me to lower my standards or how to watch a movie). A good director and writer can forge new developments with what Hollywood has been attempting with recent successes such as Black Panther and Coco that many audiences loved for strong characterizations, culture significance they empathize with, and good writing around their messages. For a studio that is attempting an empowerment message here, Disney should have looked to their previous projects both big and small to remember how to properly apply inspiration to our modern setting (such as The Princess and the Frog, Mulan, Zootopia) and recruited a more experienced director and writer to deliver better quality. Anything that wants to showcase these two features should treat them with the respect they deserve instead of delivering the same obnoxious methods commonly associated with similar lower standard disrespectful pandering.

Overall Consensus: A Wrinkle in Time's good intentions are dragged down by wooden directionless acting, sloppy editing, excessive CGI, wasted opportunities, horrible writing, obnoxious cliches, and lack of substance. ⭑1/2💻 Runtime: 1 hour 49 minutes PG

Reasons to watch it: You like any of the aforementioned actors. You have read the book and want to see how its been adapted for the big screen. You don't mind too much CGI being utilized. You want to see a giant Oprah. You like see the power of love save the day in a Disney movie yet again. You don't mind the darkness being a black space cloud that slaps people around with CGI tentacles. You want to see what happens when Ava DuVernay and Jennifer Lee work together. You like predictable obnoxious cliches from Disney Channel Original Movies.

Reasons to avoid it: You dislike any of the aforementioned actors. You have read the book and don't want to see how its been adapted for the big screen. You hate excessive CGI being utilized. You hate seeing the power of love save the day in a Disney movie yet again. You are annoyed the darkness being a black space cloud that slaps people around with CGI tentacles. You hate predictable obnoxious cliches from Disney Channel Original Movies. You dislike unlikable lead characters in Disney. You hate creepy close up camera shots on unlikable children.

Coming up next: March Madness has reached a low point with A Wrinkle in Time being one of the worst movies I've seen this year so far. The wasted potential along with the good intentions just made all of its flaws even more frustrating to think about. However, things can hopefully do better from here as we move from Disney over to Warner Bros with an upcoming video game film adaptation. Tune in next time as Screening Spectacles will be watching and reviewing Tomb Raider (and maybe another movie in that same weekend if time permits)!

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