A Wrinkle in Time
Directed by Ava DuVernay
There was a moment in the Oscars last Sunday, when the presentation of awards wasn’t interrupting the montages, when Jimmy Kimmel and a ragtag crew of celebrity millionaires snuck into the theatre next door and distributed food and candy to a snack-starved audience watching a special screening of “A Wrinkle in Time.” It was odd for a number of reasons, not least the idea that a Dolby Theatre full of film professionals would so disrespect a movie in progress. But we had also been shown a prior glimpse of the audience sitting in the dark, looking more like they had been trapped in front of a Microsoft Excel training video, rather than an epic fantasy adventure.
And then I watched the film and I understood.
“A Wrinkle in Time” is the latest film adaptation of a story in which a child helps to save absolutely everything from a dark force responsible for evil, despair, melancholy, doubt, and presumably Arby’s. It’s “The Neverending Story” with Falkor replaced by quantum entanglement, which seems like a raw deal given the obvious joy of luckdragon flight.
Storm Reid plays Meg, a teenager whose life went precipitously downhill when her father (Chris Pine) disappeared through a wormhole in space that he and her mother (Gugu Mbatha-Raw), both scientists, had previously only theorized as being possible. This leads to a delayed chase through the rock album cover universe, with Meg accompanied by her too-precocious younger brother (Deric McCabe), a-remarkably-OK-with-a-quick-jaunt-through-space boy from school (Levi Miller), and three galactic tour guides who seem like good witch counterparts to the bad witches of “Hocus Pocus” (Oprah Winfrey, Reese Witherspoon, Mindy Kaling).
All of which is simply awful. The advance screening was preceded by a filmed message from director Ava DuVernay (“Selma”) exhorting us to remain open-minded and to view the film as if through the eyes of an eleven or twelve year old version of ourselves. It seemed more like a warning than a recommendation and I was never sufficiently stoned as an eleven or twelve year old to have enjoyed this. It’s a giant mess of eye candy nonsense that can still be sensed unpleasantly even separated by days and miles from the viewing experience. Quantum entanglement indeed.
The admittedly low-bar highlight of my film watching week was “Gringo,” starring David Oyelowo as a drug company middle manager caught in the midst of corporate and cartel chaos. He’s the fall guy for his corrupt bosses (Joel Edgerton, Charlize Theron), as they try to sell their Mexican synthetic cannabis factory, and the unwitting target of almost everybody else in this comedic action romp. The film is aided by a surfeit (or a waste, depending on your perspective) of talented supporting actors in surprisingly minor roles, including Thandie Newton, Amanda Seyfried, Alan Ruck, and Sharlto Copley, with a small cameo by Paris Jackson. The outcome isn’t as wonderful as the cast might suggest, but it was an enjoyable ride and a welcome palate cleanser after “A Wrinkle in Time.”
Jared Leto co-produced and stars in the less enjoyable “The Outsider” opening on Netflix today, a bland paint by numbers game of white hero Yakuza bingo. Leto plays an American imprisoned in Japan after World War II who gets drawn into a crime family by his cell mate. It’s not a good sign that the film heavily features a 1957-1961 era Chrysler Imperial, that the entire gang seems to timeshare, or that a little Japanese microcar flavor is thrown in with a 1960 (or later) Mazda, when the film is set in 1954. But you can mark off all the other required elements on your playcard – swordplay, panoramic tattoos, sumo, kabuki, finger-amputations, ritual suicide, and bloody violence. I regret interrupting my “Jessica Jones” binge.