There’s Oprah! There’s Reese and Disney! There’s Ava and Captain Kirk! There’s a big-screen take on a beloved children’s book! “A Wrinkle in Time” has so much power behind it and high expectations before the film even starts. Does the visual fantasy live up to the hype? Let’s reach across the universe to see.
Meg (Storm Reid), her mother Mrs. Murry (Gugu Mbatha-Raw) and her adopted brother Charles Wallace (Deric McCabe) miss Mr. Murry (Chris Pine), who vanished mysteriously four years ago as he was discovering how to travel through space. Meg, who was previously a star student, is now an aloof, angry and uncaring teen. She is the target of school bullies, mainly her neighbor Veronica (Rowan Blanchard). Charles Wallace, in contrast, is optimistic and friendly. This makes him the perfect link to intergalactic beings, starting with bubbly but caustic Mrs. Whatsit (Reese Witherspoon). Joined by Meg’s classmate Calvin (Levi Miller), Meg and Charles Wallace meet Mrs. Who (Mindy Kaling), who can only speak using other people’s words, and Mrs. Which (Oprah Winfrey), a towering and all-knowing force.
The powerful women reveal that they are astral travelers, proving that Meg and Charles Wallace’s parents’ scientific theories are true. Unfortunately, the travelers must find Mr. Murry as an evil being, the It, is about to devour the universe. It’s up to Meg to find her father across galaxies, but she must be powerful enough to do so.
Ava DuVernay does something she has not done before in her career in the director’s chair – take on a big-budget tentpole full of computer-generated images and Disney magic. She keeps her signature moves – elevating women and people of color on the screen and giving roles to David Oyelowo (who provides the voice of the It) – and she finds a new way to tell a story.
Yet, “A Wrinkle in Time,” based on the book by Madeleine L’Engle, doesn’t feel as deep or as memorable as DuVernay’s previous offerings like “Middle of Nowhere” and “Selma.” As the kids and the travelers go through different worlds and encounter all sorts of danger, the images are breathtaking, but the plot is not. Moments are too short to absorb, and many characters are introduced and then quickly disappear. This works well for youngsters as they are the movie’s target audience, but the parents who grew up with the book may be disappointed that there’s little to keep them hooked.
There are some bright spots outside the imagery. Meg expands the very small group of black girl nerds that appear on screen. She employs her physics background, a connection she shares with her father, to move the team forward in their mission. Meg is also complex; she has the insecurities most girls her age have, including not being able to take a compliment as Calvin admires her natural curls. The love between Mr. and Mrs. Murry appears genuine, a couple who makes discoveries and a family together.
While Witherspoon, Kaling, Pine and Winfrey are the stars, the team of Reid, McCabe and Miller is allowed to shine. While they’re not the best child and teen actors out there, their performances are enough for the material they are given, and the bigger stars don’t steal the spotlight from them.
DuVernay makes a good effort in her blockbuster debut with “A Wrinkle in Time,” and a young audience can benefit from the images and people they see in a fantasy setting. Maybe some more space travel is needed to make a more perfect product.
3.5 out of 5 stars
When “A Wrinkle in Time” first came out in 1962, the sci-fi fantasy novel featured a female character as the lead, which was rare for the genre at the time. Troubled teen Meg Murry dealt with an absent father, self-esteem issues and wanting to fit in.
Over 50 years later, Meg Murry is just as relevant as ever. The delightful “Wrinkle in Time” brings the relatable teen to life, with an inspiring story, vibrant settings and larger-than-life characters.
The timing is right for the first live-action adaptation of Madeleine L’Engle’s classic children’s novel, helmed by imaginative director Ava DuVernay. Though it may not reach all the heights it aspires to, the ambitious adventure offers valuable life lessons in self-discovery for kids as well as adults.
“A Wrinkle in Time” centers around Meg Murry (Storm Reid), the intelligent but insecure daughter of brilliant scientists Alex (an excellent Chris Pine) and Kate (Gugu Mbatha-Raw). Alex develops the controversial concept of a tesseract, a form of interdimensional travel that bends space. But soon after his discovery, he disappears in his lab, leaving behind his family and newly adopted son, Charles Wallace (Deric McCabe).
Four years after her father’s disappearance, Meg, now 13, is an outcast at school, bullied by classmates and falling behind on her studies. Her younger brother, Charles Wallace, is a precocious genius who sees the potential in his sullen sister.
Their lives change when three mystical beings – Mrs. Whatsit (Reese Witherspoon), Mrs. Which (Oprah Winfrey) and Mrs. Who (Mindy Kaling) – appear to the siblings and alert them their father is in danger. With their new friend Calvin (Levi Miller) in tow, Meg and Charles Wallace embark upon a cosmic journey to search for their father that tests their strengths, weaknesses and love for one another.
I read “A Wrinkle in Time” in elementary school and really liked it, so I was looking forward to the film version. The movie is very faithful to the book, which can be a tricky read due to its dense subject matter. But the film succeeds at taking difficult scientific concepts and boiling them down for its young audience to understand.
“A Wrinkle in Time” is visually stunning, with breathtaking interplanetary settings and special effects. There’s colorful flowers that gossip among one another, a magical ride across the sky, and an abstract room that becomes a scientific puzzle. The bright hues contrast with the dark worlds controlled by evil, showing the battle between light and darkness that Meg and Charles Wallace are drawn into.
With their uniquely coiffed hairstyles and exquisite costumes, Mrs. Whatsit, Mrs. Which and Mrs. Who provide an engaging entry point into a larger universe. Witherspoon is the most fun as Mrs. Whatsit, striking up a sweet rapport with Charles Wallace and a tough-love dynamic with Meg. Winfrey is soothing as Mrs. Which, and Kaling brings a meditative vibe as Mrs. Who. Zach Galifianakis is cool, calm and encouraging as the all-knowing Happy Medium, a character I always liked in the book.
But the weight of “A Wrinkle of Time” falls upon its young heroine’s shoulders. Reid is up to the task, leading a diverse cast. As Meg, the young newcomer must learn to like herself – faults and all – if she is to find her father and bring him back home.
Meg must rely on her scientific knowledge to solve problems. It’s a good message for young people, showing the importance of STEM programs. Reid has a nice chemistry with DeCabe. Their bond is believable as both siblings are gifted in different ways.
As grounded as it is fantastical, “A Wrinkle in Time” tackles the theme of self-confidence, from embracing one’s natural hair to trusting your own instincts. These are issues that affect people of all ages. As an adult, I saw myself in Meg’s struggle. In a powerful scene, the character must confront her desire to conform and the price of her individuality.
Despite its many strengths, “A Wrinkle in Time” isn’t perfect. The third act feels a little rushed. The action jumps from place to place without much explanation, which could confuse non-book readers. As Calvin, Miller mainly tags along for the ride, with little to do except build up Meg.
“A Wrinkle in Time” brings home the lesson that ordinary people can do the extraordinary if we look within and trust ourselves. That makes all of us extraordinary. The cosmic outing delivers a new film classic that children and adults can enjoy together.
3.5 out of 5 stars