Director Ava DuVernay’s version of Madeleine L’Engle’s 1962 children’s novel is actually the second attempt at filming the thing after a forgotten 2003 TV movie.
This new take is bigger, lavisher, more crammed with expensive FX and comes complete with a swag of labourious, selfcongratulatory PC themes that the late L’Engle mightn’t have been too happy about.
Brilliant 13-year-old protagonist Meg Murry (Storm Reid) has become a poor student and a vague rebel since her astrophysicist Dad (Chris ‘Captain Kirk’ Pine) went missing four years ago. She lives unhappily with her sad Mom (Gugu Mbatha-Raw) and equally brilliant adopted brother Charles Wallace (Deric McCabe). Somehow Charles can communicate with the universe or something, and eventually three magical warriorguardian types appear to assist Meg in finding Dad, and they’re played by Reese Witherspoon (as Mrs. Whatsit), Mindy Kaling (as Mrs. Who) and Oprah Winfrey (as the exposition-friendly Mrs. Which).
The trio transport Meg, her would-be-boyfriend Calvin (the Queensland-born Levi Miller) and Charles to a series of mystical CG realms and planets where all sorts of tiresomely fancy stuff takes place: Mrs. Whatsit turns into an oversize flying leaf thing; Zach Galifianakis turns up as the very silly ‘Happy Medium’ and Michael Peña is a bit better as part of the evil and nastily negative ‘IT’ (not the Stephen King It, of course); and Winfrey (star of DuVernay’s far superior Selma) stomps about in giant form, oddly looking like she doesn’t realise she’s on camera.
Oh-so-awkward and irksomely pompous, this is precisely the sort of gruesomely gluggy epic that provokes furious cries of, “But it’s a movie for kids”, if you dare criticise it, and that’s certainly true: it IS a movie for kids. And they all deserve much, much better than this bloated nonsense.
Rated PG. A Wrinkle in Time is in cinemas now