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Movie review: 'A Wrinkle in Time'

Director Ava DuVernay's youth-oriented fantasy film "A Wrinkle in Time" (Disney) wants to blow your mind.
Whether it succeeds will largely depend on your reaction to the sight of a giant version of Oprah Winfrey who, as a celestial guide called Mrs. Which, dispenses New Age-style bromides while dressed in an outfit suitable for a Valkyrie and sporting a makeup job the late female impersonator Divine might have found a bit garish.
As for more substantial considerations, this adaptation of Madeleine L'Engle's Newbery Medal-winning 1962 novel for young adults is wholesome in some respects, problematic in others. While entirely free of the negative elements that usually debar recommendation for young viewers, the movie's underlying worldview involves an uneasy combination of secularism and magical thinking.
Standing in need of Mrs. Which's help, and that of two of her peers, Mrs. Whatsit (Reese Witherspoon) and Mrs. Who (Mindy Kaling), is troubled middle-school student Meg Murry (Storm Reid). Four years after the unexplained disappearance of her father Alex (Chris Pine), a NASA scientist who, together with his physicist wife, Kate (Gugu Mbatha-Raw), had developed an unorthodox method of time and space travel, Meg is still devastated by his absence.
So it comes as a pleasant surprise when the trio of women magi mysteriously manifest themselves to Meg, her adopted younger brother, Charles Wallace (Deric McCabe), an intellectual prodigy, and to her supportive would-be boyfriend Calvin (Levi Miller). With their otherworldly visitors' assistance, the kids set off on a cosmic quest to track pop down and bring him home.
Their journey is often eye-pleasing. From the start, however, Jennifer Lee and Jeff Stockwell's screenplay tries to force or simply assume audience sympathy with the characters, rather than earning it.
The picture's ultimate message, that we should love ourselves even while acknowledging our faults, can be seen as promoting the Christian virtue of humility. And, though one scene incongruously suggests that Mrs. Whatsit, in the course of a shape-shift, engages in a bit of peek-a-boo exhibitionism, the youthful romance at the heart of the story is a model of innocence and positive, if not always convincing, emotional interaction.
Still, very young viewers or for teens who are not well grounded in their faith may lack the discretion to retain the script's acceptable takeaway while jettisoning the metaphysical gobbledygook that surrounds it. A follow-up discussion with parents may, however, help those in the latter group to do so.
The film contains occasional peril and possible momentary off-screen immodesty. The Catholic News Service classification is A-II -- adults and adolescents. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG -- parental guidance suggested. Some material may not be suitable for children.
  • Published in Reviews

Movie review: 'Home Again'

Genteel decorum prevails in the romantic comedy "Home Again" (Open Road). At least, it does so everywhere beyond the confines of its protagonist's bedroom. The result is a morally mixed film in which kindly characters follow the misguided marital and sexual dictates of contemporary society.
Although the movie opens with the aforementioned main character, Alice Kinney (Reese Witherspoon), in tears, her situation turns out to be more tumultuous than tragic.
Recently separated from her British-born, New York-based husband, Austen (Michael Sheen), Alice has returned to her hometown of Los Angeles, her two young daughters, Isabel (Lola Flanery) and Rosie (Eden Grace Redfield), in tow. There they've settled into the lavish house in which Alice grew up and which she inherited from her father, John (David Netto), a famous director of 1970s arthouse movies.
While out on a liquor-fueled spree celebrating her 40th birthday, Alice crosses paths with a trio of promising but broke filmmakers: brothers Harry (Pico Alexander) and Teddy (Nat Wolff) and their pal George (Jon Rudnitsky). Alice and Harry fall for each other at first sight, but he loses his cookies before they have the chance to get physical.
The morning after the night before, the lads -- homeless after being turned out of the cheap motel room they were occupying -- stick around, charming Alice's mom, Lilian (Candice Bergen), with their enthusiasm for her series of starring turns in her late husband's pictures. At Lilian's behest, and after some hesitation, Alice agrees to let her new friends take up residence, rent-free, in her guesthouse.
Naturally, the polite and considerate youths bond with Isabel and Rosie and, inevitably, Alice and Harry pick up where nausea had forced them to leave off. But back east, Austen, who has all along wanted to reconcile with Alice, is none too pleased to learn of this novel domestic arrangement -- even though he is still in the dark about its sexual aspect.
There's a gentle spirit to writer-director Hallie Meyers-Shyer's feature debut. In fact, the daytime interaction between Alice and her three tenants sometimes recalls that between Snow White and her seven dwarfs.
But the script presents marital breakup as a form of liberation. And, though it coyly avoids having the romantic leads sleep together within hours of meeting each other by sending Harry off to worship the porcelain idol, Meyers-Shyer obviously takes the duo's subsequent fling as a given.
Additionally, the girls' accidental exposure to the relationship -- babysitting Lilian unexpectedly shows up with them, just as Alice and Harry are emerging in the morning -- is milked for laughs.
Unsound but not obnoxious, "Home Again" (Open Road) will easily be parsed by grownups, for good and ill. The entertainment value of the positive residue, however, is slight at best.
The film contains a benign view of divorce and cohabitation, momentary semi-graphic and brief nongraphic sexual activity, comic brawling, a few uses of profanity and at least one rough and about a half-dozen crude terms. The Catholic News Service classification is A-III -- adults. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG-13 -- parents strongly cautioned. Some material may be inappropriate for children under 13.
  • Published in Reviews
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