The NeverEnding Story, light-edition… and sans killing a horse.
After Dr. Alex Murry (Chris Pine) mysteriously disappears working on a quantum entanglement theory for advanced space travel, his middle school daughter Meg (Storm Reid) is still coming to grips with his absence five years later. Her younger brother Charles Wallace (Deric McCabe) seems a bit further along emotionally until he reveals the existence of Mrs. Whatsit, Mrs. Who, and Mrs. Which (Reese Witherspoon, Mindy Kaling, and Oprah Winfrey) — three magical beings who’ve traveled across the universe to rescue their father from a terrible evil, but they’ll need the kids help… if they have any chance at all.
Based on the beloved children’s classic written by Madeleine L’Engle published in 1961 and helmed by Selma director Ava DuVernay, the pure imagination that fuels this story has long deemed a movie adaptation unfilmable. There’s a good reason for that: it’s very open to interpretation and each reader views it very differently. The story also has a dark undertone typically shied away from in Young Adult fare this side of dystopian science fiction, plus it’s infused with a very Sixties sense of New Age physics. Can the well-known story be modernized, translated to screen, and retain the pure imagination that have kept the story a classic for decades?
In this case, the final cut has been reduced to the Cliff Notes version of the story, eating up valuable screen-time with admittedly beautiful CGI sequences while reducing the plot to one girl’s self-worth. If you knew nothing about A Wrinkle in Time that might be enough, but heavy plot points has been boiled down to a handful of meaningful sequences that still feel too stretched out considering the slow pace given to the pretty parts. Storm Reid as main character Meg more than carries the film, but the shooting script perhaps leans too much upon her as her rushed-feeling arc begins and concludes at the mercy or the running time.
It’s never a good sign when the pacing feels both like the film drags while the story is rushed. The temptation of Charles Wallace seems too sudden in context, as if it was the only way to jumpstart the third act. Central themes running to “the fifth dimension” and such a thing as “a tesseract” appear as footnotes in the film, glossed over quickly before moving on to more visual effects. The theatrical cut feels like there’s a more complete, less-edited version out there, a director’s cut that fills in all the hints of deeper story; that’s the version that needs to be seen and hopefully exists somewhere.
With any luck, this will drive the target audience toward reading the source material to get everything that was missing, but what appears here feels too much like an abbreviation, especially when considering the padding of new story in front of the actual first scene in the book: the arrival of Mrs. Whatsit. Here’s holding out for an extended cut and more complete version — and maybe you should, too.
Two skull recommendation out of four