Susan Granger’s review of “A Wrinkle in Time” (Disney)
For many years, Madeleine L’Engle beloved 1962 sci-fi fantasy was considered too unwieldy, steeped in religious and spiritual concepts, and, therefore, un-filmable.
Nevertheless, Disney backed director Ava DuVernay (“Selma,” “13th”) on this $100 million-plus project, which revolves around rebellious Meg Murry (Storm Reid), a biracial teenager whose adolescent angst is augmented by the disappearance of her physicist father, Dr. Alex Murry (Chris Pine).
“Most days I hate myself,” Meg admits, reflecting what most middle-schoolers feel. The underlying goal is for Meg to learn to let go of her emotional baggage, grow more confident, and accept herself as she is, faults and all.
So Meg embarks on a cosmic journey, ostensibly searching for her father who went missing four years earlier, just as he discovered a breakthrough way of traveling great distances through space, utilizing something called a tesseract.
Meg is accompanied on this celestial quest by her precocious younger brother, Charles Wallace (Deric McCabe), and her admiring, supportive classmate, Calvin (Levi Miller).
They’re led by three ethereal beings: capricious Mrs. Whatsit (Reese Witherspoon), quotation-spouting Mrs. Who (Mindy Kaling) and colossal, all-powerful Mrs. Which (Oprah Winfrey with dazzling, rhinestone-studded eyebrows), who urges Meg to “Be a Warrior.”
The first place they visit is verdant Uriel, populated by talking flowers; it’s a favorite of Mrs. Whatsit, who transforms into a green dragonesque creature, taking them on a galactic ride on her cabbage leaf-like wings.
Then it’s off through another, mind-bending, interstellar portal to find Happy Medium (Zach Galifianakis). Eventually, resilient Meg must match wits on a foreboding, mercurial planet called Camazotz with The It, a giant, disembodied brain (voiced by David Oyelowo).
Adapted by Jennifer Lee (“Frozen”) and Jeff Stockwell (“Bridge to Terabithia”), it’s loaded with bold feminism and multi-racial/multi-culturalism. But it’s also burdened by a diffuse, often confusing storyline and too many garish, overbearing visuals which quickly become disconcerting.
On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, “A Wrinkle in Time” is a family-friendly, yet frustrating 5, a psychedelic, self-empowering trip.