AS I LISTENED TO THE description of the show I became more horrified by the changes in the story. It was one of my favorite stories when I was a child. The changes I was hearing did not make any sense to me and I could not understand why anyone would want to tamper with a classic story. That is not just my opinion; the story has survived as they say the test of time, bringing joy to millions. The story has been turned into several films, theater productions and ice skating shows; yet for the most part the essence of it remained the same. Imagine how you would feel if you were going to see something that you were familiar with only to discover it was nothing like you remembered. For me it is like going to a favorite restaurant for a specific dish only to find out, after they brought it to your table, that the cooks changed it. Yes I know there is a possibility I could love it even more; but the chances the new dish will not satisfy my taste buds seem to always run higher. SO LET ME TELL YOU about the book today’s movie is based on. It was required reading when I was in school. I enjoyed the story so much that I read the book twice. It has been years since I thought about the story; but I remember anytime I was invited to a kid’s party I would always first consider buying this book as a gift. There were times I found out the child already had a copy of the book which in an odd way pleased me. I felt like this family, whether I was related to them or not, gets it; they understand the story is truly special and may also know the book was awarded the Newbery Medal. For those of you not familiar, the Newbery Medal is a literary award given to the author; think of it as the Oscars of children literature. As you may imagine I was looking forward to seeing this movie version of one of my favorite books. Let me also say I am aware I may not remember everything about the story but I do know how it made me feel and this adventure fantasy caused me to experience different feelings. FOUR YEARS AFTER HER FATHER disappeared from home Meg, played by Storm Reid (12 Years a Slave, Sleight), was visited by three beings who knew where her father had gone. With Oprah Winfrey (Selma, The Color Purple) as Mrs. Which, Reese Witherspoon (Home Again, Walk the Line) as Mrs. Whatsit, Mindy Kaling (No Strings Attached, The Office-TV) as Mrs. Who and Levi Miller (Pan, Red Dog: True Blue) as Calvin; I enjoyed the visuals in this picture. What I did not enjoy was pretty much everything else in this movie. I was actually annoyed with the direction; it seemed at least 50% of the scenes were shot in close-up. The script was so poorly written that almost all the characters were drab and lifeless. For such a story the writers and director needed to hit the viewers with deep emotional scenes, making the negative forces something we would fear. Instead I sat in my seat being bored and depressed with how wrong this movie got the story. Even the acting, except for a couple of actors, was bland and uninspiring. Now I will say if you have never read the book, you might find something you like about this movie. For me I plan on re-reading the story so I can forget about what I saw in this film.
1 ¾ stars
If you really want to learn something about the area you are in then talk to a local person. I discovered many hidden treasures this way when I traveled to new places. This is one of the reasons why I use public transportation when visiting a new city. With advice from local residents, I was able to experience the best pecan pie in Charleston, South Carolina and a wonderful BBQ meal in Dallas, Texas. In case you were wondering if I am only concerned about food when I travel, I do ask local residents about places that a guide book may not cover. One of my best trips took place in Minneapolis, Minnesota simply because of a woman who was standing next to me at a bus stop. She gave me some wonderful tidbits about local spots. When a story is being told by the person who lived through it, it allows us to relate to it on a personal level. This was a wonderful device that was used impressively in this dramatic film, inspired by a true story. Forest Whitaker (Phone Booth, Repo Men) played Cecil Gaines, a White House butler who served through eight different presidents’ terms of office. The viewer was a witness to numerous historical events, told through Cecil’s eyes. Aware the script took creative license with facts; this review is based on the movie’s entertainment value. Forest was outstanding as the stoic, quiet butler who took to heart the advice given to him on his first day of employment: The White House was not a place for politics. Oprah Winfrey (The Color Purple, Beloved) as Cecil’s wife Gloria, showed us she can be known as an actress who has a talk show. I was impressed with David Oyelowo (The King of Scotland, Lincoln) as Cecil’s increasingly militant son, Louis. The actors used to play the various presidents came across more like a stunt to me; the only convincing one was John Cusack (Martian Child, High Fidelity) as Richard Nixon. For their brief scenes I felt Vanessa Redgrave (Howard’s End, Blow-Up) as Annabeth Westfall and Jane Fonda (Nine to Five, Coming Home) as Nancy Reagan were the only ones who stood out. I thought the story’s flow was well done, despite several scenes being too syrupy for me. Strictly speaking on the entertainment factor, this movie provided a glimpse into historical events, using both drama and humor to tell the story. And what a story it told; my interest never waned. There were a couple of scenes where blood was shown.
3 1/4 stars