Disney are having a huge amount of financial and critical success with live action remakes of their classic animated features, but not so much with original properties. For example, I was hyped at the prospect of Tomorrowland (2015), but was disappointed with the result and, unsurprisingly, it was a flop. This is a shame as big studios with big budgets need to take risks in order to bring fresh stories to the screen. There are successes such as Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl (2003), but also some misfires along the way and unfortunately this movie is one of them.
A Wrinkle in Time is apparently a passion project for director Ava DuVernay who has been developing it for a number of years. It is based on a bestselling book series which I have never heard of. Maybe it’s that the book was huge in America or that I’ve never heard of it simply due to the fact it hasn’t already been translated to the big screen before.
To sum up the plot without giving away too much, an alienated girl called Meg (Storm Reid) is still grieving after the mysterious disappearance of her NASA physicist father (Chris Pine) four years ago. She has a genius adopted little brother named Charles Wallace (Deric McCabe), who for reasons I must have missed introduces his sister and token tween love interest Calvin (Levi Miller) to what I can only describe as three transdimensional fairy godmothers. They then embark upon a quest across the universe to find her estranged father.
I’ve spoken to a few friends and colleagues who had high hopes for this film having seen the trailer. The overall look, sound and feel of the film contains a lot of the established Disney hallmarks; but it is sadly lacking the magic. It’s a big budget cheesy and trashy film that unfortunately wastes its potential, mainly due to its incoherent plot and pacing.
To sum it up it’s another story about a girl with daddy issues trying to find her place within the universe. I am fully aware that I am not the target audience for this film but I wonder if young girls (and boys) will find it enjoyable, and I guess time and box office returns will tell.
It isn’t all bad though as amongst other qualities it contains a strong moral message that if you believe in yourself and overcome your fears anything is possible. It also introduces some good concepts about time and space, as well as alternate worlds, to young viewers, and the notion of not letting doubt and negativity darken your lives. For example, the feeling of jealousy when friends and loved ones achieve greatness, the fear of being unloved and alienated, peer pressure and the pressures of overbearing parents and how these affect people young and old is told in a good montage.
The three transdimensional fairy godmothers are well defined as we have Mindy Kaling playing Mrs. Who, who only speaks in quotes; Reese Witherspoon’s Mrs. Whatsit, embodying the actress’s quirkiness; and Oprah Winfrey’s big presence (pun intended) as the wise Mrs. Which. As per The Jungle Book (2016) it is crucial to cast a convincing young lead actor(s) in a fantasy world. If the audience doesn’t find them believable then the whole film falls apart. As such Storm Reid is fine as Meg (although a little too whiny sometimes), and Levi Miller is also decent as fellow companion and love interest Calvin. However Deric McCabe as Charles Wallace becomes really obnoxious early on and as such the audience loses interest in his story arc.
There was little point in having Zach Galifianakis and Michael Pena show up, and I wondered if Chris Pine’s character ever saw a man eat his own head along his travels, as he reminds me of Gary from Team America: World Police (2004).
As the film progresses it becomes messier and, for example, the good orchestral score by Ramin Djawadi is often ruined by jarring, interspliced pop music. We have plot beats that don’t make sense, undeveloped characters and more glitter than a psy-trance rave. Bear in mind that I generally like kid’s films, however this is another live action misfire from Disney. It’s not a film that grabbed me and the soppy yet predictable ending dragged. There isn’t a lot of depth to the kids and I was half expecting Charles Wallace to be an intergalactic adoptee, which would have improved things.
This for me is comparable to Tomorrowland (2015) as it’s a great sci-fi premise, has a great adult supporting cast not used to their potential, a field of wheat, and a boring third act that lets the whole film down. It makes me wonder why Disney made this over Tron 3.
This will be a film that annoys parents as kids will keep asking afterwards “Why did this happen? What happened to?” and the parents will simply not know how to answer. But this is a film made for kids and as long as young girls and boys enjoy this blend of sci-fi and fantasy, then Disney have done their job.
Overall Verdict: Unfortunately, this is another misfire for Disney as the film is very much style over context with an incoherent plot. It’s a shame as we need more new stories on the screen, but more importantly they need to be entertaining and good.
Reviewer: George Elcombe