The movie is adapted from the book of the same name. My first impression was this movie is best suited as a child's movie, with similar themes and whimsical characters. It's a simple story of how the kids save their parent(s). Not quite a five year old's movie. A good target audience would be eight to sixteen year olds.
A good story with a well-worn theme, so how does Disney raise it out of mediocrity? It adds star power. Bring in Oprah Winfrey and suddenly you'll have a large audience clamoring to see the film. If that's why you go see it you'll be very disappointed. Winfrey brings absolutely nothing to the film other than her name. Her character, Mrs Which, is supposed to be of a higher echelon than the other two Mrs's, Mrs Whatsit (Reese Witherspoon) and Mrs Who (Mindy Kaling). Witherspoon is whimsical and somewhat silly and Kaling only talks in quotes of famous people. Witherspoon and Kaling far outshined Winfrey in portraying their characters. Winfrey seemed labored and unmotivated.
Meg (Storm Reid) and her adopted brother Charles Wallace (Deric McCabe) look after each other since their father (Chris Pine) disappeared some four years ago. Their mother (Gugu Mbatha-Raw), a scientist like Pine, struggles to take care of both kids. And although she played only bit parts I really wish her character was developed more. She had the ability to get you to care about her. McCabe comes across like a six-year-old going on 40 years old. He's wise and intelligent beyond his years. Reid's character was a lively, intelligent, and outgoing student until her father disappeared. Then she fell into a disaffected state, not caring about anything and wondering what life was all about, constantly doubting everything.
McCabe let's Witherspoon into the house. Gugu and Reid are shocked at the stranger's presence and you could almost sense Gugu's maternal protective instinct kick in. After a brief exchange, Witherspoon leaves promising to see them soon. Later Reid and McCabe are walking their dog and Calvin ( Levi Miller) suddenly joins the walk saying he felt compelled to be at that place at that time. But McCabe comes across like he knew Miller would be there. McCabe tells the group they are going to go on a journey and they all agree to go. Why was Miller there? What's his connection to Reid? Maybe a love interest? It wasn't clear. Like so many other things in the movie, the characters' motivation to do something wasn't clear; other than to find Reid's father.
Now the group is in Reid's backyard when Witherspoon floats down from a tree, very Disney-esque. She rattles on about going on a journey and then a twenty foot tall Winfrey appears like Oz from behind the curtain. She tries to come off as ominous and all-knowing but falls flat. The group is joined by Kaling as they disappear into another world. Witherspoon turns into a giant, flat, green gecko-looking thing and whisks the group off to their next destination. I was impressed by the CGI on that one. But as the end unfolds and the kids are whisked back home I found myself wondering what Gugu's reaction will be. She doesn't disappoint.
Have we as a population gone too far to “protect” our kids? There's more conflict in Scooby Doo and Popeye cartoons than there was here. Yet this movie is rated PG and runs 109 minutes. Only because of standout performances by Kaling, Reid, McCabe, Witherspoon and Gugu will I give this movie 3 out of 5 Miners.