Opinion

Comparing movies: ‘A Wrinkle in Time’ vs. ‘Field of Dreams’

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I thought “Wrinkle in Time” might be another “Field of Dreams.”

Do you remember the 1999 movie “Field of Dreams” starring Kevin Costner? The film was based on W.P. Kinsella’s novel, “Shoeless Joe,” published in 1982. I bought “Shoeless Joe” off a drug store book rack on a hunch. Never a staunch baseball fan, unfamiliar with Mr. Kinsella’s writing, something told me, “This is a good book.”

And it was a good book. It’s the story of sportswriter, Ray Kinsella, who learns famous author J.D. Salinger, best known for his book “Catcher in the Rye,” is a serious baseball fan. But after Salinger became famous, he stepped from the limelight, into a very private, reclusive life in rural New Hampshire.

In “Shoeless Joe,” sportswriter Kinsella kidnaps Salinger and takes him to a baseball game. After a rocky start, the two characters develop a trusting friendship — which develops throughout the book.

A huge fan of Salinger’s writing, I liked W.P. Kinsella’s story. Is “Shoeless Joe” a true story? Probably not, but it is written convincingly, and whether the story’s true or not remains an open question. As a reader, I wanted the story to be true.

When I first heard “Shoeless Joe” was made into the feature film, “Field of Dreams,” I was excited to see how the filmmakers would portray J.D. Salinger. Screenplay writer, Phil Alden Robinson, handled Salinger by writing him out of the story. Instead of Salinger, “Field” has fictitious “blacklisted” writer Terence Mann. The great human friendship between “Shoeless Joe” characters Ray Kinsella and J.D. Salinger, is morphed poorly into a political statement having nothing to do with the original story.

As with “Shoeless Joe,” I knew nothing about the book, “A Wrinkle in Time,” nor its author, Madeleine L’Engle. The book was first published in 1962. Disney released a made-for-tv “Wrinkle in Time” movie in 2003, and produced the latest “Wrinkle” movie. I like to watch movie trailers to see how creators summarize feature films in 1-to-3 minute film shorts. Trailers are often good lessons in getting quickly to the point of a story.

That’s how I discovered “A Wrinkle in Time.”

Then Oprah Winfrey, one of the “Wrinkle” stars, was in the news as a maybe 2020 candidate for US President. I wondered if “Wrinkle,” as so often happens, was in some way Hollywood’s first push for an Oprah for President campaign. In short order, I heard news story snippets of how all the Christian references in the original “Wrinkle” book were — like J.D. Salinger in “Field of Dreams” — scrubbed from “Wrinkle” the movie.

Without having read the book, I knew nothing about “Wrinkle’s” Christian references. But, the reported Christian movie script scrubbing suggested “A Wrinkle in Time” was another politically correct movie. Why an incredibly popular book with Christian references wouldn’t translate, Christian references intact, into a popular movie, is a question for “Wrinkle in Time’s” creators.

My doubts notwithstanding, Eileen and I went to see “A Wrinkle in Time.” The story, as told on screen, is very good. It’s not hard to imagine where the book’s’ Christian references would have been. What I liked as much as the story line is the movie’s absence of politics. The characters are all interesting, the actors all very good — in a few instances the actors were exceptional.

“A Wrinkle in Time” had plenty of opportunities to inject political correctness. Instead, the writers let the story unfold. Because of that, “Wrinkle in Time” is a million times stronger.

Maybe someone will follow “Wrinkle’s” lead and remake “Field of Dreams” with J.D. Salinger, leaving W.P. Kinsella’s timeless story intact.

Scott K. Fish has served as a communications staffer for Maine Senate and House Republican caucuses, and was communications director for Senate President Kevin Raye. He founded and edited AsMaineGoes.com and served as director of communications/public relations for Maine’s Department of Corrections until 2015. He is now using his communications skills to serve clients in the private sector.

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