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March 11, 2018

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New film heroine but not ‘Wrinkle’-free

GO ahead, pick your favorite young, villain-vanquishing fantasy heroine. Meg Murry probably came first.

Katniss Everdeen? She arrived in 2001. Hermione Granger? That was 1997. Elphaba, the green girl from “Wicked”? 2003. But Meg, the reluctant, bespectacled heroine of Madeleine L’Engle’s classic “A Wrinkle in Time,” has been with us, and on the shelves of middle-schoolers, since 1962.

Enter Ava DuVernay, tapped by Disney to put her own spin on this tale of self-discovery across the space-time continuum, for the big screen. Talk about pressure. And the talented “Selma” director does not shy away from the task of adapting the story to the 21st century.

With the help of a terrifically diverse cast anchored by newcomer Storm Reid, and A-listers like Oprah Winfrey and Reese Witherspoon, DuVernay has made a film that is unabashedly of the moment. Hip-hop quotes, eating disorders, a “Hamilton” reference? Yup, yup, yup.

It’s also all over the map, in every way possible. It’s visually gorgeous at times but then boring to behold at others, emotionally poignant at times but stunningly cloying at others. It’s also confusing.

We begin, as “Wrinkle” fans surely know, with that “dark and stormy night.”

It’s been four years since Meg’s beloved father, a physicist, disappeared mysteriously. Dad had been exploring serious issues involving time travel. And now he’s gone, leaving Meg (Reid), her mom (Gugu Mbatha-Raw) and precocious little brother Charles Wallace (Deric McCabe) wondering if they will ever see him again.

The outside world is dismissive, including the school principal, who flat-out tells Meg her dad probably won’t be coming back. Meg has problems at school, she’s said to be aggressive and troublesome, although frankly, this is hard to see from Reid’s thoughtful, sweet demeanor.

When Meg throws a ball into the face of the reigning mean girl, Veronica, landing her in the principal’s office, it seems strangely out of character.

In any case, soon Meg, Charles Wallace and friend Calvin (Levi Miller), whose quirky character has sadly been turned into a blandly handsome nothing, will be on their journey, via a time travel to find Dr Murry.

While the faults of this film do not make it stronger, maybe its well-meaning spirit will be enough to appeal to a new generation of Meg Murry fans.


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