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A Wrinkle In Time: A girls' movie all boys should see

Disney's latest sci-fi fantasy breaks gender boundaries by showing girls can lead boys

If Black Panther demonstrated that women can dominate a lucrative action movie, then A Wrinkle In Time takes the lesson further - showing the boys how to be gracious followers.

The sci-fi fantasy is aiming to dislodge its Disney stablemate from atop the box office when it hits US theatres on March 9, with its young female protagonist Meg Murry - played by 14-year-old US actress Storm Reid - leading two boys in the adventure.

It opens here tomorrow.

"It's nice for a young boy, young man even, to see that it is OK to have a sensitive side to you," Zach Galifianakis, one of the movie's few white male actors, told a news conference in Hollywood.

"I come from a very masculine upbringing... and I love the way I was raised. But looking back, we need balance."

Striking that balance, Ava DuVernay's movie - a rare original project in a Disney slate of mainly remakes and sequels over the next four years - is the first in history to entrust a budget of more than US$100 million (S$132 million) to a female African-American director.

Much of the movie's messaging about gender comes in the shape of Calvin, Meg's classmate and travel companion, a teenage boy at ease following and trusting in a young girl.

Calvin is played by Australian Levi Miller, 15 who called out the culture of "toxic masculinity" which he said was "rampant in society".

Based on Madeleine L'Engle's 1962 classic of the same name, Wrinkle takes audiences across dimensions of time and space, examining the nature of darkness versus light, the redeeming power of love and arguing that strength comes from embracing one's individuality.

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Fresh off heavy projects like the 2014 civil rights drama Selma and 2016 prisons expose 13th, DuVernay directed from a screenplay by Jennifer Lee.

Lee, who won an Oscar for 2013's Frozen, is the first female director of a Disney animated feature and the first woman to steer a feature to more than US$1 billion at the box office.

DuVernay plucked Reid from thousands of hopefuls to play Meg, the daughter of two world-renowned physicists who struggles with her self-image and just wants to fit in at her Los Angeles middle school.

Her father's (Chris Pine) mysterious disappearance four years earlier has left Meg devastated and her mother (Gugu Mbatha-Raw) broken-hearted.

Her preternaturally intelligent younger brother Charles Wallace (Deric McCabe) introduces Meg and Calvin to three magical beings - Mrs Which (Oprah Winfrey), Mrs Whatsit (Reese Witherspoon) and Mrs Who (Mindy Kaling) - who have descended to Earth to help in the search for Mr Murry.

Travelling via a wrinkling of time and space, they are transported to worlds beyond their imagination where they must confront a powerful evil force.

Kaling loved science fiction growing up, but said it was a genre "that largely did not love me back".

"I never saw representation of a dark-skinned Indian woman, Indian girls, in anything I saw and it's a pretty peculiar thing when you grow up loving something that doesn't love you back," she said."To be part of this movie... is so fun because I finally feel welcomed with open arms in something that has ignored me completely."

Winfrey is the woman of the hour after a rousing Golden Globes speech against sexual misconduct led to a viral social media campaign calling on her to run for president in 2020.

The daytime TV queen, who has denied ambitions for office, was asked if there was room for hope in an America reeling from recent mass shootings and polarised by politics.

"It just takes a little bit of light," she said. "If everybody can get that message, that's how we have hope in the world. We're looking for warriors who can bring hope back." - AFP

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