When Disney releases a new kids movie, the world seemingly halts in place, and things are no different with A Wrinkle In Time. Adapted from Madeleine L’Engle’s 1962 novel, Disney’s A Wrinkle In Time is directed by Ava Duvernay with a screenplay by Jennifer Lee, the writer behind Frozen. Starring newcomer Storm Reid as 13-year-old Meg Murry, Wrinkle In Time doesn’t quite capture the magical feeling necessary to be labelled a modern Disney classic (or even a good movie).
Wrinkle In Time revolves around Meg, a bright girl who has been struggling since the disappearance of her father. Played by Chris Pine, Dr. Murry is a scientist who figures out how to travel across the universe and suddenly disappears, leaving his family alone for four years. Alongside her kid brother, Charles Wallace, Meg deals with harassment at school, from both students and faculty, and copes with the belief that their father is still alive somewhere. After Charles mysteriously befriends a group of magical witches off-screen, Meg has to get over her cynicism and, alongside her friend Calvin, travel across the universe to look for her father.
It’s a standard search-and-rescue story that takes the kids to a few visually interesting worlds. Unfortunately, we only stay with each new location long enough to get a small taste of the book’s hidden complexities instead of really diving into things. At two hours flat, Wrinkle In Time could have benefited from more time to allow the characters and settings some time to breath, but since it’s a kids movie from Disney, things are brief and flashy to retain audience attention. Audiences are told Meg’s a genius alongside the likes of Einstein, and it’s true she likes physics and is an intelligent girl, but it’s hard to see that because the other characters around her are strikingly dumb. The children are told there will be traps on each world they visit, and the only thing that separates her from the pack is that she never falls for any of the simple tricks. For a genius, she’s never challenged or truly given a moment to flex the intellectual might the movie keeps telling us she has.
From an acting standpoint, only three of the performers really knock it out of the park. Oprah Winfrey, Chris Pine and Zach Galifianakis all kill it in their distinctive roles, but the rest of the cast is sloppy. For a movie that focuses on and follows children, none of the three children actors at the center of the movie deliver solid performances. Reid is bearable in the title role, but her dry delivery and moody attitude makes it hard to engage with her character. She’s at her best whenever her character interacts with her father. When Reid is with Pine, their relationship feels very loving and DuVernay does a great job of showing their intimacy through small moments. Deric McCabe, who plays Meg’s younger brother Charles Wallace, is unbearable. His zippy persona and starchy suits fit right at home in the Disney movie, but he turns in a lackluster performance that makes it hard to care about what happens to Charles. While she’s good on shows like The Mindy Project and The Office, Mindy Kaling may have been Wrinkle In Time’s weakest performer. Whenever she is on screen, Kaling radiates this feeling of waiting to say her next line instead of appearing present in the moment.
One of the most frustrating things about Wrinkle In Time is its soundtrack. While movies like Guardians of the Galaxy and Baby Driver feel hand-crafted around certain songs, Wrinkle In Time‘s soundtrack feels like it was haphazardly thrown together by 13-year old girls. Yes, this may be a movie for kids, but loud, obnoxious pop music isn’t really the best way to hammer home emotional points. Even with the first original Sade song in eight years, the music throughout the film is very jarring and certain tracks made me giggle instead of feel inspired like DuVernay hoped. Fortunately, the soundscape is salvaged by Ramin Djawadi’s powerful score. The composer behind HBO’s Game of Thrones and Westworld, Djawadi’s melodic pieces pull the audience deeper into each new setting as the children continue on their mission.
Admittedly, I’ve never read the book and it’s been a long time since I saw the 2003 adaptation, so I can’t name everything missing here, but it feels lacking. For a movie that showcases three children embarking on a journey to fight a physical incarnation of evil, it’s an incredibly light, cheery movie. While Wrinkle In Time tries to feel emotionally complex, the evil “It” at the center of the movie is so vague that it strips agency away from every being in the universe. Instead of telling children that everyone feels dark and we have to overcome those feelings to grow, the movie essentially says bad feelings are never our fault and there’s always something else to blame. There’s a lot of depth to be explored in this story, but the movie just scratches the surface instead of diving in and fully wrestling with the material.
Wrinkle In Time is definitely a kids movie, but it doesn’t have the humor or emotional resonance of flicks like Zootopia or The LEGO Movie that keep adults entertained and deliver similar messages to children. When I saw this movie, I took my 13-year-old cousin with me because she’s the perfect demographic for the film and was genuinely excited to see it. Unfortunately, even she thought the plot was boring and the characters weren’t challenged enough to make this an engaging film. Support it if you’re happy Disney is making movies more diverse, both in front of and behind the camera, but if you are looking for an excellent film to watch this week, I suggest finally checking out one of those Oscars nominees you’ve been putting down off.
Final Score: 5/10
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