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Movie review: ‘A Wrinkle in Time’ fails to adapt its complex source material

“A Wrinkle in Time” was directed by Ava DuVernay and stars Storm Reid, Levi Miller and Deric McCabe. Based on the novel of the same name by Madeleine L’Engle, the film centers around a girl and her brother who go on a quest through space and time in order to find their father who disappeared years ago.

DuVernay has two of the most empowering films of the decade under her belt with 2014’s “Selma” and 2016’s best documentary winner, “13th,” so even if this movie didn’t have the same racial themes as her previous works, I was very excited to see what she could do as an already well-established director. Add that to a loaded supporting cast including Chris Pine, Reese Witherspoon and Oprah Winfrey, and I came in hopeful to see what can be done with such an acclaimed novel.

The Good

There were certainly moments to appreciate, strictly on the ambition that DuVernay directs with in order to adapt this book on the screen. There is very little in the way of safe choices made by DuVernay from start to finish, and the originality and pure insanity from the book is, at times, very accurately shown here in the movie. 

The supporting performances often hold the leads up when they aren’t working, as Pine and Winfrey both are very strong in their limited screen time. I also appreciated the humor that Zach Galifianakis brought to the movie, but it was nine-year-old McCabe who made the biggest impression on me –– even with all the talent around him. McCabe is funny, charming, witty and is downright intense when he needs to be, and I loved what he brought as Charles Wallace.

Visually, the peculiar worlds were shown beautifully, with visual effects and cinematography often working wonders to create these places that were well-crafted within the book. Sometimes the movie goes too far and too outlandish, but regardless of where the content went, the CGI was superb.

The Bad

To film a book that has been considered impossible to adapt to film, there should be some changes made to create a more cohesive story, or at least make the movie work from a plot standpoint above all else. Instead of doing any of that, this movie decides to be incredibly confusing while explaining the bare minimum of what in the world is happening.

“A Wrinkle in Time” is a total mess by every definition of the word, and one that turned my brain to mush for all the wrong reasons. It’s a different kind of mush than “Annihilation,” which earned my trust by making compelling characters and a fascinating plot, but with this movie, it’s confusing and total nonsense without having any of the intrigue to back it up.

Reid was nothing great in the lead, but she was passable in most of the scenes that she was forced to bring out the emotion, but she looks like Meryl Streep when put next to Miller, who was absolutely awful from the first time he speaks. Look, this isn’t the first time I’ve complained about Miller, so at this point, at the age of 16, he really needs to think of other careers outside acting because the kid cannot deliver a line of dialogue with even a lick of emotion at any point in this movie.

I can live with bad performances, even ones as horrific as Miller’s, if the storyline is working behind it, but “A Wrinkle in Time” totally misfired on making its plot something possible to follow. I know the book is ambitious and complex ––  that’s why it shouldn’t have been adapted –– but to make a film of this stature without any cohesion or any real solid explanation to literally any moment of the plot, is ludicrous, and it made the final moments lack anything resembling stakes.

Conclusion

“A Wrinkle in Time” shows DuVernay going bold and going to places most directors wouldn’t. However, despite strong visuals, she completely fails in adapting the storyline that made the book so important. Nothing, and I mean nothing, makes sense in this movie, as I often had the same thought rolling through my head: What in the world am I watching right now?

Maybe this is a movie that works for the biggest fans of L’Engle’s book, but as someone who simply read it back in high school, “A Wrinkle in Time” is a failure, and needed serious work on its storytelling to even begin to work as a movie.

1.5 stars

One comment

  1. This movie has nothing to do with the books I enjoyed as a child. In fact it was so poorly adapted that to even call it A Wrinkle in Time is an insult to the original book. If only I could fold time and go backwards to get my 2 hours back and the $$ it cost!! Save your money and your time it’s not even worth renting!
    happy room

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