So I guess DOCTOR STRANGE (2016) wasn’t enough. Disney wanted to make a visually trippy movie for kids too. Eh, what do I care? So long as it’s good.
Here’s the cast. Starring, we have Storm Reid (SLEIGHT , 12 YEARS A SLAVE , and the upcoming KILLING WINSTON ), Levi Miller (PAN , and 1 episodes of SUPERGIRL [2015 – ongoing] and TERRA NOVA , and the upcoming AMERICAN EXIT ), Oprah Winfrey (THE STAR , THE PRINCESS AND THE FROG , and BEE MOVIE ), Reese Witherspoon (HOME AGAIN , WALK THE LINE , and CRUEL INTENTIONS ), and Mindy Kaling (INSIDE OUT , WRECK-IT RALPH , DESPICABLE ME , and the upcoming OCEAN’S 8 ). In support, we have Chris Pine (WONDER WOMAN , STAR TREK , THE PRINCESS DIARIES 2: ROYAL ENGAGEMENT , and the upcoming OUTLAW KING ), Gugu Mbatha-Raw (CLOVERFIELD PARADOX , BEAUTY AND THE BEAST , MISS SLOANE , CONCUSSION , and upcoming films FAST COLOR  and MOTHERLESS BROOKLYN ), Zach Galifianakis (TULIP FEVER , BIRDMAN , and THE HANGOVER ), Michael Peña (12 STRONG , COLLATERAL BEAUTY , BABEL , CRASH , and upcoming films ANT-MAN AND THE WASP  and EXTINCTION ), and David Oyelowo (GRINGO , CLOVERFIELD PARADOX, QUEEN OF KATWE , INTERSTELLAR , RISE OF THE PLANET OF THE APES , and the upcoming CHAOS WALKING ).
Now for the crew. Directing is Ava DuVernay, known for SELMA (2014). Co-writing the screenplay are Jennifer Lee (FROZEN  and WRECK-IT RALPH ) and Jeff Stockwell (BRIDGE TO TERABITHIA ). Composing the score is Ramin Djawadi, known for THE MOUNTAIN BETWEEN US (2017), PACIFIC RIM (2013), BLADE: TRINITY (2004), and the upcoming SLENDER MAN (2018). The cinematographer is Tobias A. Schliessler, known for BEAUTY AND THE BEAST (2017), MR. HOLMES (2015), HANCOCK (2008), and FREE WILL 3: THE RESCUE (1997). Finally, the editor is Spencer Averick, known for SELMA.
Overall, it doesn’t look like the science is going to be anything that hasn’t been done a million times, the concept of folding space and time. But it looks like a visual spectacle, so I’m down. Early ratings haven’t been too kind, so… damn. Lets just see what happens.
This is my honest opinion of: A WRINKLE IN TIME
Meg (Storm Reid) is a troubled teenage girl. Four years ago, her parents, who are a pair of the most brilliant minds in the scientific community, have discovered calculations that make bending space and time possible, and to be able to go anywhere they want in the universe. However, Meg’s father, Alex (Chris Pine), disappeared and hasn’t returned in four years. Now, where once Meg was a great student, has begun to act out by not participating in school, becoming hostile and even violent against her bullies, among other things. But one day, Meg is visited by three strange otherworldly beings who seem to know about her father and where to find him. They offer to take her across the cosmos to help search for him, alongside her younger brother Charles Wallace (Deric McCabe) and her friend Calvin (Levi Miller).
Oh god, my brain!! My brain is mush!! I can’t!! I just can’t, with this movie!! Quiet!! Please, make it stop!! The square root of 906.01 is 30.1!!
Guys, it’s bad. And I’m not just in the way of, “I see what you were trying to do and it simply didn’t work for me,” I mean this is probably one of the most incompetently put-together films that I’ve seen in a long, long time. And from a Disney product, no less, this is saying a heartbreaking ton.
I have no idea where to start.
The visuals were supposed to be the highlight of the film, but no matter what we see, or where the story takes us to these otherworldly… worlds, there’s absolutely nothing unique about them. The first world we go to, this lush, green, pretty as all hell world… it’s Pandora. From AVATAR (2009). Yeah, floating islands in the sky, it’s so totally AVATAR!!! Did you also see TOMORROWLAND (2015)? You remember how much of the advertising, the posters, the TV spots, and trailers all seemed to love the open tall grass field? Well, that’s briefly in here too! Horrendously uninspired.
None of that would matter if the characters were anything to latch onto, but that goes down the toilet just as fast as everything else in this movie. Meg is unbelievably bland. She’s supposed to be this trouble-making teen who is aggressively acting out against the world, but Reid’s performance is so unemotional that you’d swear she was simply bummed that her school lunch’s tator tots were soggy. From throwing a basketball at another girl’s face, to realistic reactions to both the abnormal and dangerous, it’s a bizarre performance that leaves you confused, not engaged. It doesn’t end with Reid, either. Nearly every character in this movie doesn’t act like a real human being. Veronica (Rowan Blanchard) is a tired bully cliché, one-dimensional with zero humanity to her character, school teachers out in the open near students and having conversations about how troubled students are, which surprise-surprise, leads to Charles Wallace overhearing and rightfully screaming at them. It’s their own fault for not being discreet about it and talking about this crap INDOORS! And then they have the audacity to get all authoritative toward the boy for their own incompetence. Oh, and Principal Jenkins (André Holland) essentially telling Meg that her father is dead and not coming back, because school principals totally have the legal and moral right to cause emotional stress on their students like that. SO FIRED!!! Not even just fired. But like, super fired. So beyond fired that he wouldn’t be let near a school building even to take etiquette courses!
Quite literally, Calvin shows up in the movie just to show up and round out the cast. I’m not even joking, his entry into the story is Meg and Charles Wallace walking their dog and Calvin comes out of nowhere, and right there and then gets caught up in the unbelievable happenings around him, taking is WAY TOO WELL, I might add. What is his relationship with Meg anyway? The story is so poorly written that you never get a sense of who these two are to each other. Yes, fine, they’re schoolmates and end up being kinda sorta romantic interests, but that’s all we know and only half of that is discovered toward the end! Are they friends? Are they casual classmates? Does one have a crush on the other? None of this explained either through visuals, or even clunky exposition! But… right after meeting Mrs. Who (Mindy Kaling), he’s sitting at the Murry dinner table, eating dinner with the family, and if I’m not mistaken, there’s no real reaction to him being there. And just like Reid, he’s boring and has some of the most awkward lines in the movie. “You have nice hair.” Uh… kid, you’re trying too hard. By God this script was awful to these actors!
Now let’s talk about Charles Wallace. Aside from having a god-awfully obnoxious name (seriously, is Charles just too hard to say by itself?), he has an even more obnoxious personality. The kid never shuts up and almost never says a line below a shouting decibel. And just like Calvin, he just accepts everything that’s happening and even seems to know what it’s all building up to. He’s way too gung-ho and jumps right into the unknown without the slightest bit of consideration for the dangers. To make matters even more uncomfortable, he latches on to characters way too easily. He screams at the top of his lungs that his sister is beautiful and when Calvin survives a harrowing experience, he gives him a hug. This would be sweet if the characters shared any chemistry. Hell, I wouldn’t be surprised if this random hug was their only interaction up to this point. Look, I don’t want to rag on McCabe. I’m sure he’s a nice enough kid, but it’s such a shame that all he’s told to do in this movie is basically be annoying.
Remember when I said every character takes everything a little too well as everything unfolds? It’s very true. Scenario: if you, as a parent, go down stairs to see a strange woman, who has for all intents and purposes broken into your house, hovering around your youngest child, would you really be asking questions, or would your first instinct be to freak out and call the cops? Yeah, this scene really happens. Mrs. Whatzit (Reese Witherspoon) simply shows up in the house, draped in… drapes, acts odd, and leaves the scene as randomly as she appeared by running outside, still wrapped in the drapes, into the rainy night. Yeah, you explain this scene to me. I dare you. I double dog dare you!
There’s also a ton of story aspects that aren’t clear. When the story actually kicks off and the kids are whisked away on their adventure with the Mrs’ women, these guardian-guide beings are insistent that they must leave on their quest without their mother, and that they’ll “get her later.” Except… no, they never do go back to get her! For all intents and purposes, these children were kidnapped! There’s not even a reference to not going back for the mother! What makes it even more baffling is just before all of this takes off, it happens right in Meg’s backyard. Nothing indicated that her mom wasn’t home, so what was the rush?
Speaking of the Mrs’, who are they? I got that they’re these comic quasi-all-knowing guide beings. Cool beans, but… who is Mrs. Whatzit? Who is Mrs. Who? Who is Mrs. Which? What are their individual contributions on this journey? Here’s what I know about Mrs. Whatzit. She’s heckles Meg, making her more than a little unlikable, as well as just a little too handsy with Charles Wallace, making her more than a little creepy, turns into… a flying giant amoeba made of iceberg lettuce, and gives a kid awesome future wet dream by going through a wardrobe change in front of him. That’s it. Mrs. Which… likes kids caressing her over-sized face and spouting clichéd “be strong” lines. And Mrs. Who… quotes things. Half of her dialog in this movie is literally quotes from other sources that are supposed to tie in to her given situation. And then this is completely scraped later on because… she was weakened? Yeah, when she’s weak, she can finally speak using her own words. It makes zero sense. At the end of the day, they’re supposed to be the means for the kids to teleport from one planet to another, only one character seemed necessary for that, as well as being the resident Obi-Wan by teaching these kids to have courage. Why did we need three characters that can easily fit just one? As I understand it, the novel says that Meg has a pair of younger twin brothers that aren’t in this movie. Makes sense, considering how they likely wouldn’t have served the story in any meaningful way. So why couldn’t the same treatment be given to the Mrs characters?
And I really hate to call this out, but I also don’t think this movie is very well directed. Aside from the garbled storytelling, there’s quite a handful of scenes that play out rather odd and awkward. Upon arrival to our first alien world, the bright, lush, and pretty one, for some reason, the characters start running down a hill and cheer and scream having a good time. Aside from how weird this is, moments ago, the kids were being told that they know how to find their father, whom is most likely in mortal danger. Oh, but let’s not forget to make time for whimsical prancing and squeeing in an open field! Priorities: what are those?
Did I mention that there’s a villain in this movie? It’s simply known as… “It.” And yes, the jokes write themselves, and Lord knows this movie would be infinitely better if Pennywise actually was the villain. Instead, we get… I don’t know, Michael Peña if he was Dick Dastardly from WACKY RACES (1968 – 1970). I honestly couldn’t even follow what his motivations were. I guess the idea is that he corrupts the good in everyone, feeding into vanity, jealousy, violence, etc., but… why does it hold Alex captive? Why does it possess Charles Wallace? What does he need him for? I can’t remember a single explanation given. Even if there is one, it must have been either vague beyond recognition, or convoluted to the point of my brain giving up. Either way, I didn’t really care. I also didn’t really care about Meg breaking the It’s control over him by constantly screaming that she loved him.
Quite literally, the only good aspect of the film is that Chris Pine is charming. If he had more screen time, then I’d say this has something of a saving grace, but… no, he’s barely in it. Hell, I would have declared this movie the greatest movie of the year if it turned out that he found his way to the USS Enterprise to do a more worthwhile movie. So no pass. I can say that this movie doesn’t necessarily have… insulting humor, despite the humor being so stagnant and unbearable that it might as well have been a personal jab. In fact, there’s really nothing especially rotten for kids, so they can probably watch this and be fine. But you know what’s going to happen by the time the movie’s over? They’re going to forget about it. It will leave no impression, or they won’t shut up with questions that you won’t be able to answer because, in reality, this movie put your adult brain in a blender, drank it, and then vomited it back into your skull! Things just happen for no rhyme or reason. I know Disney has made some bad live-action films before, but I can safely say that most of them have an easy to follow story, no matter how stupid it is. This… I couldn’t follow a lick of it. The visuals are uninspired, the characters range from bland to annoying, and nearly everything else is just nonsense. If it’s not blatantly obvious, I do not recommend this. In any way. Not in theaters, not as a rental, it’s not even worth sneaking into. All that will happen is your understanding of how anything works will be purged from your mind. You and your kids deserve better than anything this flick has to offer. Relax your face, close your eyes… and picture a different movie.
My honest rating for A WRINKLE IN TIME: 1/5
PS: Are you interested in seeing the movie that Chelsea Clinton declared a childhood inspiration? Then click the image below to head on over to Amazon.com and pick up your copy of the celebrated novel by Madeleine L’Engle.