MARCH 9, 2018 -- Director Ava Duvernay gained critical acclaim with her historic drama "Selma" which was produced with help from Oprah Winfrey and Brad Pitt. I interviewed her during the publicity rounds for "Selma" and found her well grounded in reality which is why I found it interesting that she took the helm of Disney's latest film, "A Wrinkle in Time".


Like many things Disney, this is not the first time the Madeleine L'Engle story was brought to life. A four-hour miniseries was first aired on the Disney Channel back in 2003, directed by John Kent Harrison. I mention the length of four hours so one can take note that Ms Duvernay's version comes in under two hours and fifty minutes; even with a budget of over $103 million.


The story is the first of five in the Time Quintet. The other four are A Wind in the Door, A Swiftly Tilting Planet, Many Waters, and An Acceptable Time; they all center around the Murry and O'Keefe families. I'm assuming that since movie studios love franchises and series of movies, Disney is hopeful this endeavor takes off so they can cash in on the other four stories. At this point...don't hold your breath Mr Iger!

Though I never read the book, less than 30 minutes into the film I realized that something was missing. Anyone who read the novel will probably wonder WTF? Indeed, the Murray family headed by Mr Murry (Chris Pine) and his lovely wife Mrs Pine (Gugu Mbatha-Raw) are light a couple of kids. Meg (Storm Reid), is the oldest and Charles Wallace (Deric McCabe) is her super smart little brother; missing are a couple of twins Sandy and Dennys who beome important in one of the later stories.


In the film, Mr Murry has already gone missing four years earlier leaving Meg in a funk and with an antisocial attitude in school. She has to deal a a group of mean girls led by her next door neighbor Veronica (Rowan Blanchard). We don't know what happened to Mr Murry, except that he and Ms Murry were working on a theory about the time-space continuum.


What we don't know is that Charles Wallace has befriended a strange woman named Mrs Whatsit (Reese Witherspoon) who seems willing to help the Murry's find their father. Skipping ahead, presumably several pages, Mrs Whatsit introduces Meg and Charles Wallace to her two friends Mrs Who (Mindy Kaling) and Mrs Which (Oprah Winfrey) who also agree to help the kids find their dad. It is at this point we find out that the dad's theory actually worked and he has tesseracted to somewhere in the Universe by folding time and space.

The three Mrs know how to tesseract and are going to take Meg and Charles Wallace on a journey to find their dad. They are joined by a locale kid named Calvin (Levi Miller) who has a thing for Meg. Next thing you know, they are on another planet that is filled with fanciful beasts and landscapes. However, in the sky sits an ominous presence called It. It, according to Mrs Which, is dark evil that threatens to take over the universe.


To locate Mr Murry, the Mrs summon a quirky fellow named the Happy Medium (Zach Galifianakis) who is a seer. Yes... the in the book, the Happy Medium was a woman... but I digress. Happy relates that Mr Murry is stuck with the It and that's where Meg, Charles Wallace and Calvin will find him.


There are a few special effects seemingly left over from "Guardians of the Galaxy" and "Thor: Ragnarok" and more tesseracts during which time Meg falls into the coming of age kind of character, a natural with Calvin hanging around fawning over her. But the story jumps all over the place, like I said...even to a person who never read the book. This is going to be utterly painful for those who have read the books.


Maybe Disney is feeling its minority oats with "Black Panther" setting all kinds of records, the cast comes off as middle-of-the-road crowd pleasing neutral. Everything is carefully integrated and there is no definition of anyone... except Ophrah's Mrs Which who comes off lager than life at first. You never get a feel that Zach, Gugu, or Chris ever got into their roles; they lack definition and roundness. Even Michael Pena's short appearance as Red is uninspired.


The kids are not memorable and don't really have any chemistry; it's hard to believe they even like each other. The same is true with Miller's Calvin and Meg; no magnetism.


"A Wrinkle In Time" is, at the very least disappointing with too many gaps and actors who don't mesh well together. It is a colorfully uninspired fantasy with very little whimsy.   -- GRADE C-  --   GEOFF BURTON