Review – No Daylight Savings Here (“A Wrinkle In Time”)

Disney first took a crack at Madeleine L’Engle’s novel back in 2003 (see review below) and it wasn’t pleasant. So, they upped the ante, got big-named Hollywood stars, had Ava DuVernay (Selma) direct, Wreck-it Ralph screenwriter Jennifer Lee adapt the book, and increased the budget by $100 million. Think it worked? Let’s see… 

School life sucks for teenager Meg Murry (Storm Reid). It’s bad enough that she gets ridiculed for being odd and socially outcast ’cause her daddy mysteriously vanished four years ago, but her adopted six-year-brother (who looks–and is–ten-years-old) Charles Wallace (Deric McCabe), talks like a grown-up and speaks out against injustice. Y’see, both parents are NASA scientists, mocked for their work on universe traveling with just your mind and certain frequencies (aka: using a ‘tesseract’). But while father Alex (Chris Pine) cracked the frequency and disappeared to who-knows-where, mother Kate (Gugu Mbatha-Raw) holds out hope that one day he’ll return.

But everything changes one day when a goofy and sarcastic astral-traveler named Mrs. Whatsit (Reese Witherspoon) shows up and teleports Meg, Charles Wallace, and Meg’s school friend, Calvin (Levi Miller) to an Avatar-like planet, along with fellow astral-travelers, Mrs. Who (Mindy Kaling) who only speaks in other people’s quotes, and their leader, the often-times skyscraper tall, Mrs. Which (Oprah Winfrey). There, they contact the rather UNhappy Happy Medium (Zach Galifianakis) who tells Meg that her dad is trapped on the ever-expanding evil planet of Camazotz, home of the dreaded “It” (no, not the clown, but that would have been awesome!)

Since only the kids can go to Camazotz, they are “tessered” there and are greeted by the friendly Mr. Red (Michael Pena) who woos Charles W. away and, quite easily, turning him into a sinister little puppet of the It; think an evil Young Sheldon. Using Mrs. Whatsit’s magical glasses, Meg locates her father, but Charles W. isn’t going to let anyone leave, bwahahahahaha! Will Sauron… I mean, the “It” win? Will Meg use her love to free Charles W. of its evil grip? Will Calvin be more than just a cardboard cutout character that babbles on and on how much he thinks Meg is a genius? Gee, I guess so.

One thing is for sure, whimsical, delightful, and charming, this movie is not. Screen-writer Jennifer Lee, who wrote the brilliant Wreck-it Ralph, decided to adapted L’Engle’s fantastical world into a movie about deep messages, self-empowering issues, conquering fears, and psychological journeys of self. . .just what you want in a kids movie, right?! Lee was SO busy with these adult themes, that she forgot that children were supposed to be the target audience. The hokey dialogue is overwhelmingly trite and laced with nonsensical adult jargon that I found hard to believe that any kid would be paying attention to.

At least the flashy CGI eye-candy visuals were nice looking, but not enough to stop director Ava DuVernay from making some very odd camera choices. Why must every shot have a CLOSE-UP in it? I mean literally, every shot! It’s unnatural and annoying after 15 minutes of this! I don’t want see everyone’s face up close. Oy! The travelers (Kahling and Witherspoon) are fun, and Chris Pine (for the little time he had) was great, but the leads needed help. Reid’s character of Meg was brooding, flat, and uninspired, with only occasional glimpses of emotion, while Miller barely registered on the acting Richter scale. McCabe, on the other hand, showed real promise as he nearly crossed the line into silly as the possessed little brother.

A Wrinkle In Time (2003)
Before the 2018 movie, the Disney television division took a whack in helping produce a very low-budget Canadian version of the book back in 2003. How did it turn out? Well, let me put it to you this way, A Wrinkle in Time author Madeline L’Engle saw it and said, “I have glimpsed it. I expected it to be bad, and it is”. Ouch!
Teenager Margaret “Meg” Murray (Katie Stuart) is having a rough time. Her dad, Dr. Jack Murry (Chris Potter) mysteriously disappeared using a tesseract (no, not the one from the Avengers) a year ago and her loving mom, Dr. Dana Murray (Sarah-Jane Redmond) still tries to find answers to his disappearance. Her 6-year-old brother, Charles Wallace (David Dorfman) is an oddball genius who never speaks to anyone outside of the family, is clairvoyant, and talks like a 25-year-old. Meg is also a social outcast at school, but likes a local teen jock, Calvin O’Keefe (Gregory Smith). But her unhappy world changes with the appearance of a shape-shifting witch called Mrs. Whatsit (Alfre Woodard).
Mrs. Whatsit then grabs Meg, Charles Wallace (CW), and Calvin and zap! They are taken away to a distant planet to meet fellow witches Mrs. Who (Alison Elliott) and Mrs. Which (Kate Nelligan) and told that their captive father is on the dreaded planet Camazotz. They get more information from the goofy transgender wizard, Happy Medium (Sean Cullen) and off the kids go to Camazotz, a strange place ruled by the Central-Central Intelligence. People stuck there are brain-washed into thinking and doing the same thing (shades of Charles Orwell’s 1984), and they manage to get inside the main building of the city where, aided by Mrs. Who’s 4D glasses, Meg finds her injured father.
Ah, but not so fast! As CW is seduced away by the mesmerizing Man With Red Eyes (Kyle Secor), the others escape to Ixchel, an ice planet with talking Yeti’s. The witches, using redundant Yoda-like philosophy, agree that only Meg has the courage to go back and rescue her mind-trapped brother. Returning to Camazotz, Meg uses her love to break CW out his trance, destroy the evil Man With Red Eyes, and free the Camazotz people as well. All in all, not a bad day. Then everyone goes home and has Hot Pockets. Yaay.
Susan Shilliday (Legends of the Fall) adapted the novel and dragged it out scene after scene into, what was supposed to be, a lengthy mini-series. It wasn’t. Then the Disney Channel was going to show it. They didn’t. It finally aired (a ghastly edited three-hour version on ABC-TV) and then right to home DVD; and you can see why. Aside from Woodward and Nelligan, there were NO other professional actors in this movie. And it showed, especially with Katie Stuart and Gregory Smith, who looked like they were just plucked off the street and told to act. Others were either comatose or over-the top. The one saving grace was young David Dorfman who, for his age, was outstanding. His delivery of lines when he’s ‘possessed’ is delightfully creepy.
Director John Kent Harrison has made a name for himself in directing low-budget, straight-to-DVD and TV movies you never heard of. This particular movie has some of the most dull, amateur, and straight forward direction ever, but check out those “SPFX”, which are hilariously bad. For a 2003 film, the CG is cringingly awful. When Mrs. Whatsit gives the kids a ride to a mountaintop, she turns into a truly disturbing-looking winged horse-thingy with a hideous human head. OMG! Things you can’t unsee! This movie just rambles on and on while the teenagers look either bored or attempt to ‘act’. Like author L’Engle said, “I expected it to be bad, and it is”. You were SO right! LOL! Still, for all its badness, it’s still better than the 2018 remake!  

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