MOVIE REVIEW: A Wrinkle in Time

written by David Steffen

A Wrinkle in Time is a 2018 science fiction action/adventure YA movie, directed by Ava DuVernay and produced by Walt Disney, based on the 1962 book of the same name by Madeleine L’Engle (which I reviewed here).

The main protagonist of the movie is Meg Murray (Storm Reid), a teenage girl whose scientist father (Chris Pine) disappeared mysteriously five years ago.  She lives with her scientist mother (Gugu Mbatha-Raw) and very intelligent but peculiar five-year-old brother Charles Wallace (Deric McCabe).  Charles Wallace befriends a strange woman in the neighborhood who calls herself Mrs. Whatsit (Reese Witherspoon), who tells Charles Wallace and Meg that their father discovered the secret of using “tesseracts” to travel long distances but is now trapped on a dark planet called Camazotz by a powerful adversary known only as the IT (David Oyelowo) and that only they can save him.  Meg’s friend Calvin (Levi Miller) joins them and they meet Mrs. Whatsit’s friends, Mrs. Which (Mindy Kaling) and Mrs. Who (Oprah Winfrey), and together they “tesser” away from Earth to find Meg’s father.

For the most part the story of the movie follows the story of the book, though it did take liberties with certain parts.  I felt like it kept to most of the same beats thematically, with major plot points about love and about Meg’s low self-esteem.  There were some major changes, some of which I was less impressed with–instead of turning into flying centaurs Mrs. Whatsit turns into what appears to be an anthropomorphic lettuce leaf (but why though?), and Camazotz felt a lot different in the movie than the book, instead of being a rigorously defined world that runs like clockwork it was an ever-changing simulation.

Overall I thought the movie was good, the casting was spectacular, especially Storm Reid as Meg who was very likeable and believable at least for me, a lot of her personal hangups mapped pretty easily to mine.  Charles Wallace seemed like his character would be particularly hard to cast because the actor has to at least appear to be close to five years old, but has to be able to pull off complicated lines with big vocabulary, and McCabe did a great job with it.  Oprah Winfrey is such a super-celebrity at this point, that for a lot of roles she might’ve overshadowed the other characters, but she was a perfect choice for Mrs. Who who is far enough distanced from humanity as a whole that she has to be reminded that being three stories tall makes her stand out.  There are a lot of wonderful visual scenes and sets and characters that were fun for all ages, and might be especially awesome for children–there are some parts that are borderline scary if your young ones are sensitive to that you might want to watch the movie without them first to know what they’ll be up against.


written by David Steffen

Sing is a 2016 Illumination Entertainment animated musical comedy about an animal singing competition.  Buster Moon (Matthew McConaughey), owner of the Moon theater, is on the verge of bankruptcy, but makes one last try at success to save his lifelong dream of running a successful theater:  a singing competition with a prize of $1000, which is slightly more cash than he actually has in hand.  Except, due to a clerical error by his assistant, the posters for the competition indicate that the cash prize is actually $100,000, so the contest draws a lot more notice than he expected.

Among others it draws the attention of devoted mother and pig Rosita (Reese Witherspoon) who has always dreamed of a singing career but who has been busy raising her 25 children, jazz busking mouse Mike (Seth McFarlane), punk rock porcupine Ash (Scarlett Johansson), British gang gorilla Johnny (Taron Egerton), expansive German dancing pig Gunther (Nick Kroll), and stage fright-crippled elephant Meena (Tori Kelly).  Buster doesn’t discover the clerical error in the posters until after the first round of auditions are over, but he decides to stick with the competition, despite having no plan to pay anyone.

The song list for the movie is very long, between full length songs and one-line clips from the first round of auditions (from characters who don’t make it through), lots of catchy stuff to tap your foot along to.  There are several really good character storylines from these singing dreamers who want to get the big break that will change their lives forever–I particularly liked Johnny, and also Ash, as far as the singers themselves go.  Johnny’s final song in particular I found really moving.

My favorite character wasn’t even a singer.  I quite liked the character of Ms. Crawly, the elderly iguana who is working as Buster’s assistant (the one who made the clerical error that started it all).  I feel like the movie treats her as comic relief, using her glass eye, slow gait, and other infirmities as a focus of comedy (I wanted to slap the scriptwriter whenever her eye randomly popped out and started causing trouble) but I found her a relatable character.  Throughout the movie she works hard to do her job, despite the obvious physical problems, she never complains and never gives up, one of those women who quietly labors behind the scenes to make a place of business work smoothly as possible with little attention from her employers.

My only real complaint (apart from the overplayed use of Ms. Crawly’s infirmities as comic relief) was that it was one of those movies where almost all of the best comedy material was in the preview.  If you saw the preview, thought it was hilarious, and want to see more, just keep in mind you’ve probably already seen the best stuff.  The rest of the movie is good, but not good on a level as the material in the preview.  If you didn’t think the preview was hilarious, then this movie’s probably not for you, at least in terms of comedy.  I really wish movies wouldn’t do that, that they would make an effort to make the preview representative rather than to use up all the good stuff in the preview, but I guess that’s the nature of Hollywood marketing.