Leroy Moyer



Mystical women aid girl’s search for dad in ‘Wrinkle in Time’

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If you were to make a smoothie out of equal parts "The Wizard of Oz" and "Alice Through the Looking Glass" with costumes from "The Wiz," a shot of CS Lewis and a villain out of Stephen King, all that Ava DuVernay's "A Wrinkle in Time," which was co-written by Jennifer Lee ("Frozen"), would be missing is Michael Jackson's Scarecrow and a few songs.

The film, based on the 1962 book series by Madeleine L'Engle, is familiar and lacking surprises, but not entirely without its fun. DuVernay ("Selma," "13th"), who has imagined the book's central family as a multiracial, brings her keen sense for acting talent to the film's casting, if also a weak eye for science fiction and fantasy visuals.

In opening scenes, young Meg Murry (Lyric Wilson) is seen working in a lab with her NASA scientist father, Dr. Alex Murry (Captain Kirk himself Chris Pine), who speaks of traveling through the universe using a tesseract and the power of the human mind Before you know it, poof, he goes missing for four years.

Bullied at school tweener Meg (an appealing Storm Reid) helps care for his little brother, Charles Wallace (a scene-stealing Deric McCabe), while their beautiful mother (Gugu Mbatha-Raw), another outstanding scientist, does the best she can on her own

Before you can say "Ebenezer Scrooge," Mrs. Whatsit (a game Reese Witherspoon), the first of three magical women, appears to Meg and offers to help her, Charles Wallace (Deric McCabe) and Calvin (Levi Miller), Meg's hunky friend from school, find her father.

Before they depart for such planets as Uriel and Orion, Mrs. Which (Oprah Winfrey), another guardian-angel-like being, appears. Mrs. Which towers over everyone else (she’s Oprah) and has silver eyebrows and lipstick and a wardrobe resembling Ursula’s of “The Little Mermaid.”

Mrs. Whatsit is clad for her part like the Statue of Liberty, while a third being, Mrs. Who (Mindy Kaling), looks Persian in dress and hairstyle and quotes various human sages, including Buddha, Gandhi and Chris Tucker. Half the time, I expected the cast of “A Wrinkle in Time” to break out into “Hair,” the eponymous song from the 1960s musical play of the same name.

In addition to a battle between darkness and light, an obvious subtext of "A Wrinkle in Time" is hair. But beyond Meg's beautiful locks, the weirdo wigs (one appears to be an inert crimson fox perched on Witherspoon's head) and scary clothes, "A Wrinkle in Time" suggests a pop American version of those Narnia films, complete with allegorical lessons and the usual platitudes, including, and gods, "Be true to yourself."

Zach Galifianakis is a disaster named after the Happy Medium, and when the devilish Red (Michael Pena) appears, he seems an awful lot like King's "It" villain Pennywise, even though L'Engle's book precedes King's. Less effort on hair, wardrobe and hugs and more on dialogue and originality, I say.

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