A Wrinkle in Time is supposed to turn out great. It has all the right ingredients. Produced by Disney, a studio that’s on such a roll, it could break Justin Dargahi’s world record for most basketball three-pointers in one minute. Except Disney would do it blindfolded, with both arms tied behind its back and blazed out of its mind.
Whether it’s animated (“Coco”, “Moana”), Disney-Lucasfilm (“The Last Jedi”, “Rogue One”, “The Force Awakens”) or Disney-Marvel (“Black Panther”, “Captain America: Civil War”), Disney has been knocking it out of the park and making it look easy. The highest grossing INDIAN film of all time, “Dangal”, starring Aamir Khan, is also a Disney product. Heck, there are new findings that suggest that the man himself, Mr. Jesus Christ, isn’t the son of God as we were initially led to believe, but the son of Disney. PLUS, “A Wrinkle in Time” is helmed by acclaimed director Ava DuVernay, whose first two feature films everyone calls great but nobody actually saw, and whose third feature film, “Selma” received a best picture Oscar nomination and is bloody brilliant.
Ava DuVernay was supposed to take the ball and run with it, just like how Patty Jenkins, Ryan Coogler, and Rian Johnson did. Unfortunately…
“A Wrinkle in Time” is a film about interdimensional travel, magic, evil entities, talking flowers, flying flowers, and HOLY SHIT CHRIS PINE’S BEARD. It has three strong female actors — Reese Witherspoon, Oprah Winfrey, Mindy Kaling — in supporting roles. And it also has interracial relationships.
Fantasy is my favourite genre, I love strong female characters, endorse interracial relationships and have a thick beard myself. On paper, this is the type of movie that would make my balls tingle. But “A Wrinkle in time” is uninspired, monotonous and feels like a Disney CHANNEL movie. Y’know, like “Sky High”. Now, there’s nothing particularly wrong with “Sky High”. It is a perfectly enjoyable whattowatchbeforefootballstarts TV movie. “A Wrinkle in Time” is also a serviceable TV movie, except it costs more than US$ 100 million to make and stars a bunch of A-list casts, one of which has an A-list beard.
This Ava DuVernay film lacks a sense of wonder, joy, and discovery. I can’t help but compare it to “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone”, a film that hits the nail on the head as far as bringing us on a mesmerizing journey as we discover the wonders of the world beyond Platform 9 ¾ for the first time. I can still remember how I felt when the doors to the Great Hall first opened. I was wide-eyed and in awe, just like Harry Potter and the other first years were. “A Wrinkle in Time” did not evoke that feeling in me, not even ONCE throughout its runtime. And that is a major problem given its genre.
The premise is simple. Meg (Storm Reid) and Charles Wallace’s (Deric McCabe) dad, played by Chris Pine is missing — possibly trapped — on another planet in another dimension. It’s up to Meg, Charles Wallace and some kid named Calvin to save him.
The setup is basic and the screenplay is poorly written. It’s genuinely surprising how one-note the screenplay is. Meg is introduced in a paint by numbers way. Her dad disappeared, so now, here she is, four years later, being an insecure emo high schooler. But not in a nuanced way that makes us understand her suffering. Here it’s just a bunch of quick scenes. The “kewl” kids tease her, she throws a basketball at them, she gets called to the principal’s office and that’s about it. Charles Wallace is smart and just randomly knows stuff. Calvin is forced into the story because apparently, we need some teen angst bullshit romance story. The film wants to touch on the ‘love conquers all’ theme, but it is forced down your throat and pretentious. “A Wrinkle in Time” is BASIC.
Here’s how weird some of the character choices can get: Oprah, Reese Witherspoon, and Mindy Kaling play guardian angels of sorts. When Mrs. Whatsit — Witherspoon’s character — breaks into their house, the mom doesn’t threaten to call the cops nor get angry. She doesn’t say, “Take your hands of my child,” or “Kids, go to your room.” She just sorta stands around. The back and forth in this scene feels unnatural and awfully scripted. It’s as if the actors couldn’t remember their lines, or couldn’t make sense of it. In another scene, Mrs. Whatsit transforms into a flying creature and the kids ride on her. You assume they’re going to be heading somewhere, but they don’t. They just circle back and that entire sequence is rendered pointless.
I guess the point is for the visuals to blow our freaking minds, which would’ve been the case had the visuals been any good. But the visuals are just as stale as the screenplay. In fact, it is staler. The trailers proclaim, “from visionary director Ava DuVernay”. It is false advertising, for there is nothing in this movie that is visionary. Nothing spectacular, unless you count how spectacularly disappointing the whole thing turned out to be. The story doesn’t flow seamlessly. Characters hang around in one dimension for a bit before being transported to another dimension. Rinse and repeat. Most of the movie takes place in bland, small spaces. If you were hoping for a trippy visual experience, this isn’t it.
For a movie that is about multiple dimensions, the characters are all sadly one dimensional. This is especially true for the three guardian angels. Who are they and how does Charles Wallace know them? Right. They’re a bunch of famous people. The actors embodying these characters do a decent enough job, but even Meryl Streep couldn’t have made this material work. What do you do when your character is only one word deep? Mrs. Which (Oprah) is “wise”, Mrs. Whatsit is “weird” and Mrs. Who (Mindy Kaling) says a renowned quote every now and then. Oh and Chris Pine is only in the movie for 15 minutes or so.
In the coming weeks, you’ll hear people talk about what an important film “A Wrinkle in Time” is. And it is. It’s a big budget film, produced by one of the biggest studios in Hollywood, with a diverse cast consisting of African-Americans, Caucasians and an Asian-American (Mindy Kaling is of Indian heritage). The film also normalizes interracial relationships. That said, “A Wrinkle in Time” still kinda sucks ass. Ava Duvernay is a talented filmmaker and I’m looking forward to more of her stuff. But let’s just say I’m glad that when asked if she’d like to helm a “Star Wars” or Marvel movie next, she said “neither.”
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