Tropic Sprockets / A Wrinkle in Time

By Ian Brockway

Ava DuVernay’s much anticipated “A Wrinkle in Time” boasts some beautiful visuals reminiscent of M.C. Escher, but is sadly lacking in every other aspect. Although it is based on the classic book by Madeline L’Engle and does have a thoughtful concept (i.e. the power of emotions in changing the world) the story is paper thin with little development, drama or punch. It is either annoyingly simple or cloyingly sweet.

Meg (Storm Reid) is a teen without her physicist father, four years missing. Her father (Chris Pine) is believed to have disappeared while exploring the tesseract, a cosmic cube. Even though the single parent family is without a dad, it does quite well with a scientist mom (Gugu Mbatha-Raw) and two precocious kids: Meg and Charles Wallace (Deric McCabe)

One day Charles summons an astral traveller Mrs Whatsit (Reese Witherspoon), and through her the pair meet two other powerful beings: Mrs. Who (Mindy Kaling) and Mrs. Which (Oprah Winfrey). What makes these beings special or unique is not explained in detail. Winfrey’s character is a kind of Glinda, the good witch from The Wizard of Oz. Witherspoon’s Mrs. Whatsit can transform herself into a stalk of tall endive that can fly and Mrs. Who can recite famous quotes, and that is all she does. Her superpower is a good memory. None of these quasi-otherworldly characters are given much to do, nor are their relationships fleshed out. Everything seems done on the level of a Disney after school special, albeit with some stunning scenery that recalls Maxfield Parrish.

The visuals may be something to behold but the story feels ready made like perforated cardboard. One is drummed over the head with the message of Love as a changing force over and over again to the point of numbness. There are fields of sentient flowers, flowing energy fields and pits of lava but it all feels heavy handed, dull and hardly compelling, with predictable emotion and attitudes.

You know you are in trouble when the comedian Zach Galifianakis has the role of a wise yogi.

But that is not the worst of it. When Charles Wallace turns evil, you’ll wish you had some cotton to put in your ears from the film “Get Out.” McCabe’s yelling is so self-conscious and off key as to be grating. Far from evil, super bratty, and not the least convincing.

We see a black spiderweb symbolizing Absolute Evil but all we get in the end is a world of black tree branches and a B- rated devil voice.

All is patterned like a cookie cutter in the end.

Despite a premise of real depth about the qualities of Love forming transcendental bonds between people and beings, all quantum ideas fizzle into sap and sentimentality, which shortchange even the likes of a Disney “feel good” movie. Only the tiniest of children will be entertained or delighted here.

Suffice to say, “A Wrinkle in Time” is not much of anything, hardly a whiff or an emotion, be it enfolded or otherwise.

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