December 15, 2018

A Wrinkle In Time (2018)

Storm Reid, Reese Witherspoon, Mindy Kaling, Oprah Winfrey

Oh, Ava.

I wanted to like this movie. I wanted to love it. I love the book. Even years after I'd read it for the first time, it held up as an adult. In such a short book, Madeline L'Engle managed to capture the nerve-wracking insecurity of the tween years and complicated familial relationships while simultaneously whisking young readers into a world filled with magic--both good and evil. It is somehow both optimistic and at the same time, terribly dark and foreboding--something I appreciate in a story for kids.

Fast forward to the movie, which is styled like a Disney princess puked all over it. I don't know, maybe I'm just a cranky old lady now who doesn't want precious memories from my childhood being changed, but why oh why are the witches bedazzled and sparkled like Glinda on steroids? Don't get me wrong--they're beautiful. They're just not supposed to be. They're also not supposed to be young. So while I like both Reese Witherspoon and Mindy Kaling as actors, I have no idea what either of them are doing in this movie. And while I don't necessarily object to Oprah (because she's been around long enough she can do pretty much whatever she wants), her character is never actually supposed to be seen, so...

But the styling choices are just the first of my many grievances. Is it the end of the world that they inexplicably made Charles Wallace an adoptee and old than the toddler he is in the book? Not really. Was it unnecessary to add Rowan Blanchard as a next door bully who then gets her own sympathetic backstory as a sort of PSA to tweens watching the movie? Yes, but not a dealbreaker. But cutting out the sequence of planets landed on, the nature of IT, Camzotz, and even the attempted rescue is unforgivable in favor of fabricated "action" to liven up the story is unforgivable.

Look, the story is pretty introspective. For a fantasy, not a lot happen, action-wise. Meg spends a lot of time in her head, and a lot of the bad stuff involves more insidious feelings than external evil. But in adapting that for the screen, we somehow lose the actual suspense or evil involved. For as bright and colorful everything is, the whole story lacks punch. Everything has been stripped back to a very blah, straight-forward search and rescue story with some magic sprinkled over it. It's boring, frankly.

When I read this story as a kid, I was terrified of IT. The book did a good job of making the setting dark and creepy, without the need for flashy fight scenes or theatrics. The mental game was suspenseful and the anguish real. This movie, in its rush to add pizzaz, glossed over everything that made the story great and instead made a somewhat boring, overblown children's movie that tried to be everything except what the actual story was.

Final word: It feels traitorous to say I didn't like this, but I didn't like it.

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