A Wrinkle in Time review by Mike Long

Ah, how fondly I remember the golden days of elementary school, especially those weekly trips to the library...which the teachers insisted on calling the "Media Center". As I would peruse the books, I can remember several occasions where friends would recommend Madeline L'Engle's "A Wrinkle in Time". I know that I read the cover and saw that it was about some children and their lost father, but I never checked it out. And then suddenly, I was reading Stephen King and juvenile fiction was behind me. Having not forgotten that, I was truly looking forward to the mini-series of A Wrinkle in Time. And now that I've seen it, I can safely say that I should have read the book.

A Wrinkle in Time focuses on the Murry family. Father Dr. Jack Murry (Chris Potter) has disappeared without a trace (although we're never told how long ago), leaving his family to wonder where he went. Fellow scientist and wife Dr. Dana Murry (Sarah-Jane Redmond) struggles desperately to find her husband and hold her family together. She gets a great deal of help from her daughter Meg (Katie Stuart), who helps to care for her twin brothers Dennys & Sandy (Thomas & Munro Chambers), and her youngest sibling, Charles Wallace (David Dorfman). Meg is very bright and is often bored in school. She spends most of her time defending Charles Wallace, who has never spoken to anyone outside of the family. Charles Wallace also has telepathic abilities and appears to be in contact with beings from other worlds. One night, the family is visited by Mrs. Whatsit (Alfre Woodard), a strange woman who says that she knows where Jack is. The next day, local high-school basketball star Calvin O'Keefe (Gregory Smith) arrives at the Murry house, as if drawn there by a magical force. (He'd once helped Meg with some bullies who were threatening Charles Wallace.)

Soon, Meg, Charles Wallace, and Calvin find themselves whisked off to another planet by Mrs. Whatsit and her colleague Mrs. Who (Alison Elliot). There, they meet Mrs. Which (Kate Nelligan) who explains to them that an evil darkness is attempting to overtake the universe and that their father is trapped inside. So, the three brave children next journey into the darkness to rescue their father. But, once there, they find a bleak world which is controlled by a central intelligence known only as "It". And "It" has its sights set on Charles Wallace.

Calling A Wrinkle in Time a mini-series is a bit of an over-statement. Despite the fact that it did play over 2 nights on ABC earlier this year, the running time of the film on this DVD is 128 minutes, which means that it was at most 3 hours with commercials when it aired. I've read some rumors on the internet claiming that the movie was pared down from 4 hours, which I truly believe, as there are many holes in the story. (And the deleted scenes included on the DVD lend credence to this rumor. More on that in a moment.) The result is a movie which is confusing and hard to follow. In short, it feels as if the movie was meant exclusively for those who were familiar with the book. The story just starts and we are given very little background on the characters. The film's worst crime is that we never learn exactly what happened to Meg's dad.

Once the children travel to the strange planet, things are even more confusing. The story does pick up a bit when the kids travel into the darkness. There they find a world where everyone lives in the same kind of house and must exercise at the same time everyday. It's a very interesting, Orwellian world and I had high-hopes for the movie at this point. But, those hopes are soon dashed when the scene which should be the most intense in the film, where Charles Wallace meets "It" is poorly directed and edited. These scene just goes on and on and never produces any emotions. The ending comes quite quickly and is a letdown. The actors are good for the most part, however, Katie Stuart is miscast in the lead role as Meg, as her range is quite limited and she can't emote at all. The special effects range from passable to laughable. I may now do justice to my childhood and read "A Wrinkle in Time", as the film simply left me confused and bewildered.

A Wrinkle in Time travels to DVD courtesy of Disney DVD. The movie is presented full-frame. I'm not sure if the film was broadcast in 1.78:1 in high-def during its original airing, but the deleted scenes are 1.78:1 and 16 x 9. The movie looks OK, as the image is clear, but there is a noticeable amount of grain on the picture and the image shimmers a great deal. Artifacting is noticeable throughout, as are haloes around the characters. On the plus side, the colors are quite good. The DVD features a Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track which provides clear dialogue and sound effects. The sound is fairly standard for the most part, but it comes to life during the travels to the other planets, as we are treated to a nice amount of surround sound and subwoofer effects.

The DVD carries a few extras. Now, as for those deleted scenes, there are five and they encompass 18 minutes of new footage. (There is a "PLAY ALL" feature.) Instead of "Deleted Scenes", this section should have been called, "Hey, here's the First Act". Three of the scenes show Jack Murray at work in his lab and add so much to the story as we learn more about his research and how it caused his disappearance. I can't help but wonder why Disney didn't assemble a director's cut with the extra footage for this DVD release. With "A Conversation of Madeline L'Engle" (10 minutes) the author talks a little bit about the book and a lot about philosophy and particle physics. Those who want to learn more about the author will be disappointed with the feature. "The Actors: Working the Wrinkle" (11 minutes) is basically a "making-of" featurette which contains comments from the cast discussing their characters and with comments from the director and producer on how the film was cast.

3 out of 10 Jackasses

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