Blu-ray Review: Disney's A Wrinkle in Time (2018)

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While I didn't catch Disney's A Wrinkle in Time during its theatrical run, I saw the featurette that was run before seemingly every film in the run-up to to its release. It was a typical praise-everyone-involved promotional puff piece (there's a greatly expanded version found on the new Blu-ray), but one moment stuck with me. Chris Pine, who plays scientist Dr. Alexander Murry, around whom much of the plot revolves, emphatically states "We had a gem of a crew."

What that tells us is that the cast experienced a comfortable shoot under the direction of Ava DuVernay (Selma). That's pretty much all it tells us. The technicians who crafted A Wrinkle in Time were, according to Pine, professional and capable. The reason for bringing this up? The movie does in fact look like it was made by professionals who knew what they were doing. And that's about the best that can be said of it. In terms of storytelling and (with few exceptions) acting, Wrinkle is an unholy mess.

Full disclosure: I've not read the acclaimed source novel by Madeleine L'Engle. I had no idea what it was even about and, after watching DuVernay's film, I still have little clear idea. Pine's Dr. Murry inadvertently goes missing for years after discovering some kind of gateway to another plane of existence. His kids, Meg (Storm Reid) and the ridiculously-named Charles Wallace (Deric McCabe), are visited one days—four years after their father's disappearance—by the three most incredibly annoying otherworldly presences imaginable: Mrs. Which (Oprah Winfrey), Mrs. Whatsit (Reese Witherspoon), and Mrs. Who (Mindy Kaling). These three "Mrs.'s" attempt to guide Meg, Charles Wallace, and their school friend Calvin (Levi Miller) through an inter-dimensional world in order to locate Dr. Murry.

There's a dark force called "IT" that, as explained by the Mrs.'s, causes all the ill will throughout the universe. IT has the power to infect people's minds and turn them into a bad guy or gal. DuVernay, working from a screenplay by Jennifer Lee (Frozen) and Jeff Stockwell, just simply doesn't find a way to make ANY of this material coherent or compelling. And what's possibly the worst aspect of a very poor film, not one of the characters is endearing. The most agreeable is Storm Reid's Meg, a sullen, serious-minded student. But every time you start to warm up to the somewhat prickly, distant Meg, the screenplay calls for her to act like an insufferable know-it-all. Like the time she explains what "lift" is while the three kids are riding Witherspoon's Mrs. Whatsit.

That's right: riding. Mrs. Whatsit can assume the form of a gigantic leaf of lettuce and fly through the air with people on her back. In a movie overstuffed with garishly elaborate CG, the cartoony site Reese Witherspoon as a big piece of soaring roughage is perhaps the least convincing. Speaking of Witherspoon, she's simply terrible as the outspoken Mrs. Whatsit. There's a fine line between playing a character that will appeal to five-year-olds and playing a character directly designed to appeal only to five-year-olds. Maybe Mr. Who's quote-speak (she doesn't ever say anything that wasn't uttered by someone else, always attributing the quotation and its country of origin—weird they all seem to be from Earth, considering she has access to alternate dimensions). is fun in the book, but it's pretty lame on screen.

Which brings us to the Oprah. Recently Ms. Winfrey delivered one of the best performances of her career in HBO's The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks. Here she has been cast for her reputation rather than her acting chops. Her Mrs. Which floats around, towering over everyone, and basically does little more than spout platitudes and symbolize what many of Oprah's disciples already think of her (i.e. all-knowing, larger-than-life, wise-beyond-comprehension). But the sad fact is, as talented an actress as Winfrey is, DuVernay has saddled her with a meaningless, nothing role.

Only Chris Pine really rises above the feel-good muck to deliver a performance with a sense of urgency. Maybe the focus should've been more on his character, though I have no idea how that would've been in relation to the source material. As it stands, A Winkle in Time is an expensive mess that even its target demo—young kids (and despite the presence of big name actors associated with adult fanbases, this movie is strictly for the youngest kids)—might have trouble connecting with.

Disney's Blu-ray has deleted scenes, a half-hour 'making of' featurette (very self-congratulatory), commentary by director Ava DuVernay and a variety of other participants, a blooper reel, and a couple music videos.
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Chaz Lipp is a Las Vegas-based musician and freelance writer. His new jazz album 'Good Merlin' is now available.

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