When even liberals are complaining that Christianity’s been stripped out, there’s a real problem.
But that’s exactly the reception that the bloated Oprah Winfrey vehicle “A Wrinkle in Time” is getting as it opens in theaters across the nation.
And that abandonment of Christianity might turn out to be a bloated, expensive mistake for The Walt Disney Company, considering the $100 million they sunk into the project.
With Oprah lending her megastar wattage to publicity for the movie (including an interview with Stephen Colbert virtually designed to offend Christians), “A Wrinkle in Time” was generating buzz long before it actually opened in theaters. Unfortunately for the company that bankrolled the movie, a good deal of the buzz was bad.
And Disney is paying the price.
According to The Hollywood Reporter, the movie envisioned as a blockbuster is having a “troubled” debut.
“Hobbled by poor word of mouth, the fantasy-adventure grossed $10.2 million on Friday from 3,980 theaters for a weekend debut of $32 million-$33 million, behind expectations,” THR reported. “‘Wrinkle in Time’ has been rebuffed by most critics, while audiences gave it a mediocre B CinemaScore.”
“Rebuffed” by critics is a polite word for it.
This one, from the Detroit News, sums it up:
“’A Wrinkle in Time’ is a rather unruly mess, and when you untangle it, all you wind up with a ball of nothing. Give it some time, and maybe it will become a camp classic.”
Disney didn’t shell out $100 million for a “camp classic.”
The basic problem for many was that biblical religious themes — an essential part of the story first published by author Madeleine L’Engle in 1962 — have been exorcised, according to a review roundup compiled by the website This Is insider.
They’ve been replaced by the sort of wishy-washy “forces of light” themes that pass for morality in modern liberals. And the movie doesn’t benefit from the switch.
As one reviewer quoted by This Is Insider put it (Indiewire senior film critic David Ehrlich):
“Jesus is out, self-worth is in, and it’s coming for your children via an $103-million orgy of special effects that starts with a giant astral projection of Oprah and only gets more insane from there.”
But viewers don’t have to love the Christian allegory of “The Chronicles of Narnia” to know that Disney and “Wrinkle” director Ava DuVernay made a bad mistake in dropping the Christian overtures from “A Wrinkle in Time.”
The extreme liberal website Vox published an article this week by religion writer Tara Isabella Burton that described the original book as being controversial for some conservative Christians, but said that reflected the faith of its author.
“But the irony is that despite its supernatural figures, ‘A Wrinkle in Time’ is a deeply Christian book, informed by not just L’Engle’s spirituality but her specifically Episcopalian background. For most of her life, L’Engle was a devoted Christian (she served as librarian and writer in residence at New York City’s St. John the Divine church) and her specific vision of Christianity was central to ‘A Wrinkle in Time’s’ climax,” Burton wrote.
“For L’Engle, who died in 2007, the heart of Christianity was paradox. A vast unknowable God, who defied comprehension, was at the same time a fragile human being: the Jesus Christ who died on the cross.”
Virtually all Christians can appreciate that. And none of it is in Disney’s movie — by deliberate design.
As screenwriter Jennifer Lee told the entertainment website Uproxx:
“One of the reasons it had that strong Christian element to it wasn’t just because she was Christian, but because she was frustrated with things that needed to be said to her in the world and she wasn’t finding a way to say it and she wanted to stay true to her faith.”
“I think there are a lot of elements of what she wrote that we have progressed on as a society and we can move on to the other elements,” Lee added.
It doesn’t get much clearer than that: We’ve progressed beyond Christianity. It’s time to move on to other elements.
That might be Lee’s take on things. It might be Disney’s take on them.
But it’s definitely not the attitude of the overwhelming majority of the American public, and that includes moviegoers.
And the price Disney pays might be bigger than even that giant can afford.
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