Movie Review: A Wrinkle in Time
(Rated PG for thematic elements and some peril)
The last time I recall reading Madeline L’engle’s book A Wrinkle In Time, was during the summer of 2003, when I decided to spend my summer reading banned books.
While I wasn’t wholly in love with the book, most of it’s concepts still stuck in my head (warping space and time is often a good way to get my attention).
When word came that Jennifer Lee (the writer of Disney’s Frozen) was attached to write an adaptation, I was actually excited to see what she could do with the material. And then, when word came that Ava DuVernay (the director of Selma) was attached, I felt this might definitely be something special, coming from the House of Mouse.
It’s been four years since the patriarch of the Murry family (played by Chris Pine) suddenly disappeared. In that time, Mrs Murry (played by Gugu Mbatha-Raw) has tried to care for their two children, Meg (Storm Reid), and Charles Wallace (Deric McCabe).
While Charles Wallace is an intelligent young prodigy, Meg has not coped well with the disappearance of her father. One day, she is surprised when Charles Wallace introduces her to three strange women, who may know where her father is.
As the film started out, I was very surprised at the pacing DuVernay was moving at (we don’t have any super-long backstories, and we don’t have Meg brooding around for half the film). This is definitely a film that trusts that it’s audience is smart enough to assemble the pieces, and just keep on moving!
While advertising has played up the roles of Mrs Which (Oprah Winfrey), Mrs Whatsit (Reese Witherspoon), and Mrs Who (Mindy Kaling), they are most definitely here to just fill supporting roles (like Johnny Depp in Alice in Wonderland), along with providing a little humor (courtesy of Who and Whatsit). While some may be disappointed about not getting a huge dose of Oprah, I felt it was nice that the script didn’t try to make the three wear out their welcome.
For much of the film, the secret weapon that the marketing seems to hide, is Storm Reid as Meg Murry.
Reid’s characterization manages to feel ‘real,’ and even when she’s spouting a few lines that should sound corny, she never seems to falter. This is Meg’s journey, and we can definitely see a change come over her, as the story goes along (plus, I did enjoy that Reid sports glasses throughout the entire film, just like Meg in the book!).
I had vague memories of Charles Wallace being a child prodigy from reading the book, and Deric McCabe managed to portray the character quite well. With know-it-all children, there is a certain propensity for them to get really obnoxious on film, but McCabe never manages to get there.
Overall, the film’s cast seems to be it’s greatest strength. Even the minor players like Levi Miller and Zach Galifianakis, work remarkably well with their limited roles.
The trailers have definitely played up a lot of fantasy visuals, but don’t expect this to turn into The Chronicles of Narnia. While most of the scenes manage to do a good job showing us places beyond our Earth, the film feels like it meanders a bit too long in a picturesque green landscape, that feels like Lord of the Rings mixed with the painterly visuals from What Dreams May Come.
There are also a few areas that seem to almost have a very abrupt change-of-pace. One notable scene felt like it was building to something bigger, when it just suddenly fizzled out to a rather ho-hum resolution.
A few times, I was surprised when non-orchestral score music was used across several scenes, somewhat ruining the mood for me. While this may have been done to play to the younger audience, I couldn’t help but wonder what composer Ramin Djawadi could have done with the few scenes I saw.
At times, I was reminded of the tone of films like Bridge to Terabithia and the recent remake of Pete’s Dragon. There’s a sense of trying to make a family film that is a bit ‘smarter’ than most of the other stuff out there, and one that almost goes back to the ‘darker’ tone of films from the 1980’s (such as The Neverending Story, and Labyrinth).
A Wrinkle in Time does have it’s faults, but I was very surprised that even so, it’s heart was in the right place. DuVernay’s film managed to hit me emotionally in several places…something that I felt was severely lacking from the last Wrinkle in Time adaptation I saw, which was made by Disney’s Television division back in 2004.
Final Grade: B (Final Thoughts: Ava DuVernay’s adaptation of “A Wrinkle In Time” brings us a PG-rated fantasy film, that carries along at a good clip, thanks to the talents of it’s cast and crew. The pacing of the story can feel a little uneven in places, but even with a run-time of almost two hours, it never feels boring. )