What's the Problem?
So, call me a mean Old Grinch! I didn’t particularly like A Wrinkle in Time. No, I’m not anti-Oprah. Don’t hate Reese Witherspoon. I’m a fan of Mindy Kaling. It’s a Disney film supposedly for kids of all ages (mostly young teens, I would suspect.) It’s clean and decent, no dirty words or sex scenes (other than some innocent teen-google eyes). Then what’s the problem?
The first hour or so is dull and boring. It nearly put me to sleep. I could feel my eyes rolling into the back of my noggin. My eyes were spinning like Alan Sues used to do as Big Al on “Laugh In.” Like greased marbles. The early scenes are setting up the story about how young teen girl Meg’s father (played by handsome Berkeley graduate Chris Pine) has zoomed off into space to explore the universe. What a novel idea! I think the kids from “Star Trek” did that with various results. From what I could gather, Meg, played wonderfully by newcomer Storm Reid (a made-up name if I ever heard one). She’s all upset that daddy left her and her mother (Gugu Mbatha-Raw) and brother (Deric McCabe) alone back on earth. Whatever can they do to get him back?
Aha! Disney has a solution. Plopped onto the screen are the modern version of The Three Stooges! Oprah Winfrey, wearing more glitter than a maniacal drag queen and dressed in what seems like layers of Saran Wrap, is the leader of the trio. Beauty Reese Witherspoon is almost unrecognizable as a natural redhead (the shade of electric red favored by comedienne Carol Cook), who floats and flaps and seems to have missed being deranged by one electric shock treatment. And there’s the exotic Mindy Kaling wearing more makeup than Donald Trump. But she’s kind and gives some good advice even if nobody is listening.
The movie doesn’t kick-in until Oprah and her side-kicks encourage the kids to travel through space to find their father. Now the film becomes a science fiction fantasy. You can tell by the whizzing through the stars by the kids and the riot of color and star-gazing that inoculates your eyes. The special effects people are the ones who are the winners here. They have done some amazing tricks with their green screens and computer keys. It’s a spectacular job done by some very talented people. Our eyes, once again, were googled. One note of caution is that some scenes are pretty scary for children. Or, I should say, scared this reviewer, so perhaps are too intense for little kiddies.
Once on “the other side” of the Universe, little brother Charles Wallace is mesmerized by evil forces and he, himself becomes a “mean widdle kid,” with a nod to comic Red Skelton’s earlier creation. The boy, adorable in earlier scenes, becomes so annoying that we wouldn’t have minded if he got his comeuppance.
On the plus side, little Storm Reid, a real find, is appealing and believable as a fraught teen who needs her daddy. Chris Pine will make the ladies swoon and a few inter-gender viewers as well when he gazes his gorgeous Technicolor eyes upon them. Pine, a fine human specimen, is also an appealing actor who does well with his scenes.
Costume designs by Paco Delgado and production designs by Naomi Shohan are tops, and the use of cinematographer Tobias A. Schliesser’s cameras capture the eye-popping colors that haven’t been seen since Carmen Miranda’s banana hats and tropical costumes blazed across the screen in Fox musicals of the forties. Positively delicious.
Despite all the terrific production designs, costumes, sets by Lorrie Campbell and eye-pleasing set decorations by Elizabeth Keenan and Claire Schwartz, the film is not all that satisfying. But what do I know? The movie will probably make a billion dollars no matter what I say.
(Released by Walt Disney Pictures/ Whitaker Entertainment and rated “PG” for theme elements and some peril.)