A Wrinkle in Time

 

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Ava DuVernay's foray into children's fantasy is a brave if misjudged contrivance.

 
Wrinkle in Time, A

Oprah goes other-worldly

 

Oprah Winfrey has just scuppered her chances of getting into the White House. In this all-too literal adaptation of Madeleine L'Engle’s 1962 novel, Ms Winfrey plays Mrs Which, a giant angel who looks like an African-American Dolly Parton processed in Valhalla. It’s not a good look. While not quite an angel, she’s a sort of intergalactic guiding spirit with tinfoil eyebrows and alarming eyeshadow. Her mission is to help the bullied 13-year-old schoolgirl Meg Murry (Storm Reid) find her father, a NASA scientist (Chris Pine) who disappeared four years previously during an astrophysical experiment. Bonded by a love of quantum physics and paper cubes (tesseracts), Meg and her father felt that they were destined for great things. But then… nothing. Thank Odin, then, for quantum physics…

 

Physics of the quantum kind is an endlessly fascinating subject, but this child-friendly sci-fi fantasy will put kids off for life. The original author, Madeleine L'Engle, had no end of trouble getting her novel published – it was rejected by 26 publishers – and one can see why. Nonetheless, the book eventually won a number of awards and has previously been filmed by Disney as a 2003 TV movie. Running the gamut from the barmy to the terrifying (featuring a universal evil called the ‘It’), this film version is a débâcle. The multiplex should provide a platform for all types of entertainment, but spiritual fantasy is a hard genre to pull off. Despite starring Will Smith and Helen Mirren, Collateral Beauty (2016) was a monumental flop, as was the Robin Williams vehicle What Dreams May Come (1998). Even It’s a Wonderful Life was a box-office disappointment on its initial release. And yet Heaven Can Wait (1978) and Ghost (1990) were massive hits.

 

There is certainly lashings of sentimentality in A Wrinkle in Time, but of the mawkish and predictable kind. And the film fails on so many other levels as well. As Charles Wallace Murry, Meg’s intolerably squeaky-clean and cheesy little brother, Deric McCabe is simply embarrassing – and in dire need of elocution lessons (he’s a budding Joaquin Phoenix, if ever there was one). But the real problem is the endless CGI – one is never sure what is real and what isn’t. And the heavy-handed attempts at light relief provided by the garish costumes of the guardians of the galaxy is a misstep of cosmic proportions. In one scene, an insufferably perky Reese Witherspoon is transmogrified into an ivy-veined, stingray-shaped flying carpet, a vision that would have given Salvador Dali the vapours.

 

JAMES CAMERON-WILSON

 

Cast: Oprah Winfrey, Reese Witherspoon, Mindy Kaling, Storm Reid, Levi Miller, Deric McCabe, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Michael Peña, Zach Galifianakis, Chris Pine, André Holland, Rowan Blanchard, Will McCormack, and the voice of David Oyelowo (as the 'It').

 

Dir Ava DuVernay, Pro Jim Whitaker and Catherine Hand, Screenplay Jennifer Lee and Jeff Stockwell, based on the novel by Madeleine L'Engle, Ph Tobias A. Schliessler, Pro Des Naomi Shohan, Ed Spencer Averick, Music Ramin Djawadi, Costumes Paco Delgado.

 

Walt Disney Pictures/Whitaker Entertainment-Walt Disney.

109 mins. USA. 2018. Rel: 23 March 2018. Cert. PG.