I sooo wanted to like this movie. Really, I did. But despite its star power both in front of the camera (Oprah Winfrey, Reese Witherspoon, Chris Pine, etc.) and behind it (director Ava DuVernay), A Wrinkle in Time is a bit of a hot mess. It’s colorful, visually stunning in parts, and spreads a heartfelt message about familial bonds, embracing your faults, finding strength in your individuality and all that good stuff. But in the end, the narrative gets lost in the spectacle – and Oprah’s larger-than-life, eye-glittered presence is more of a distraction than a serviceable plot device. The story just doesn’t add up. I don’t recall that being the case with Madeline L’Engle’s classic novel, first published in 1962. I read it in the 1970s (when I actually devoured more books than movies – probably because I couldn’t drive) and have fond recollections of protagonist Meg Murry’s travels through time and space in search of her scientist father who went missing while studying the universe.

There is some updating and reimagining going on with the story, as adapted for the big screen by DuVernay (Selma, 13th) and writer Jennifer Lee (Frozen). But the gist remains the same. Newcomer Storm Reid plays Meg, a young teen who went from being a brilliant student to a moody and awkward loner after her father (Pine) disappeared. Meg is shaken out of her funk by three quirky celestial guides — Mrs. Which (Oprah), Mrs. Whatsit (Witherspoon) and Mrs. Who (Mindy Kaling) — who alert Meg that her father is alive and being held prisoner by dark forces that Meg and her little brother Charles Wallace (Deric McCabe) have the power to confront and defeat. So off they go – along with Meg’s cute schoolmate Calvin (Levi Miller) on a daring cross-planetary rescue mission.

In a pre-recorded introduction ahead of the screening, DuVernay called her film “a love letter for young people and people who are young at heart.” She urged viewers to “embrace your inner child.” I tried. Really, I did. But my inner child was squirming with disappointment. Whereas the recently-released sci-fi action adventure film Black Panther far exceeded my expectations, A Wrinkle in Time fell short of them. Perhaps it’s because I had a stronger attachment to Wrinkle‘s source material from my youth. Nah, it’s because Black Panther is a much better movie.

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