Fantasy flick a sappy good time

ENLIGHTENED: Oprah Winfrey plays Mrs Which with Storm Reid as Meg Murry.

A Wrinkle in Time

  • Fantasy adventure; Cert PG; 1hr 50mins
  • Starring: Storm Reid, Oprah Winfrey, Mindy Kaling, Reese Witherspoon, Chris Pine, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Zach Galifianakis and Michael Pena
  • Director: Ava DuVemay

WALKING the line between science fiction and fantasy, A Wrinkle in Time has a happy and non-threatening yet mature and enlightened message totally unselfconscious in its sentimentality.

Based on the 1962 novel by Madeleine L’Engle, the movie version lacks those passages that made A Wrinkle in Time one of the most banned and controversial books of the 20th century. At just over 90 minutes, it is a fast-paced journey through the universe that deals with themes like abandonment and self-worth.

The story revolves around two siblings – Meg, played by Storm Reid (12 Years a Slave) and Charles, played by Deric McCabe (Stephanie) – in search of their adoptive scientist father, played by Chris Pine (Star Trek 2009), who has accidentally transported himself across the universe.

Accompanied by the new next-door neighbour, played by Levi Miller (Jasper Jones), the children are helped by three aliens in their quest.

Though the film uses footage of Central Otago photoshopped to look more other-worldly, much of the action was filmed on a sound stage. The special effects overwhelm the natural beauty and the characters don’t interact with their surroundings, making the footage basically pointless.

The decision to make Oprah Winfrey’s character a 20-foot tall hologram for most of her time on-screen results in stilted dialogue between her and the other actors as they were probably not even on the same sound stage during the filming. Co-star Reese Witherspoon (Legally Blond) seemed to be the only one not taking herself too seriously in the film. She flits across the screen with more animation than even the computer generated special effects.

At 16, Australian-born Levi Miller is destined to become the next teen heartthrob, meaning – unless he can parlay his career into the adult realm – his career has three, four years tops.

The movie sets itself up well with a promise of sequels, and with five books in the Time series the door is wide open.

After its publication, the novel faced controversy for being too Christian and for not being Christian enough.

In 1985, A Wrinkle in Time was challenged at a United States elementary school when a parent claimed the book promoted witchcraft. Its use of Christian allusions was challenged as well.

In 1990, parents at a school district thought the book conflated Jesus with other historical figures and represented God incorrectly. In 1996, the book was challenged because a parent thought it undermined religious beliefs.

In the screen version, all references to religion were watered down or taken out of the script completely. What remains is a non-denominational and positive tale of building self-assurance, the importance of loyalty to friends and family and the empowerment of equality.