First published in 1962, the children’s science fiction novel “A Wrinkle in Time” quickly became beloved by readers of all ages and won multiple awards. It was notorious for its symbolic imagery and complicated scientific concepts, making it seemingly impossible to adapt to the big screen.
More than 50 years later, Disney and director Ava DuVernay decided to conquer this beast of an adaptation. While I never read the original novel, I can say as a film, “A Wrinkle in Time” is an entertaining ride for adults, but an inspired adventure for children.
Meg is an intelligent girl whose father goes missing after claiming to have discovered a way to travel across the universe in mere seconds. After his disappearance, Meg and her younger brother Charles Wallace are discovered by The Misses, three powerful beings who believe the children’s father is still alive. Along with their friend Calvin, the trio travel through the universe to not only find their dad, but to find themselves along the way.
The plot of “A Wrinkle in Time” is not its strongest asset. While nothing insulting, it can feel cliched and uninspired at times. I’m unsure if this is a fault if the film, or if the source material’s age hindered what they could do with the plot.
Luckily the visuals, performances and the handling of themes more than make up for the somewhat tired plot.
“A Wrinkle in Time” immediately catches the eye with its vivid and delightfully weird aesthetic. The colors are vibrant, the locations are odd, sparking the imagination to wonder what else could be in this universe. The effect of traveling through space is the highlight, as it resembles going through multiple layers of cloth and has a nice thematic payoff near the end.
The Misses steal the show, with their bizarrely colorful outfits and performances. They are odd characters, but they’re never off putting or incomprehensible. Reese Witherspoon’s Mrs. Whatsit is hilariously condescending, Mindy Kaling’s Mrs. Who is fun with her quote-laden dialogue and Oprah Winfrey commands the screen as Mrs. Which.
While these characters are fun and scene-stealing, they ultimately don’t overshadow the main characters, and their strong performances form the backbone of the film’s brilliance. The child actors are better than most, with Storm Reid as Meg managing to hold her own in a lead role. She can be strong, intelligent, and vulnerable whenever needed.
What stuck with me most about “A Wrinkle in Time” is how it manages to capture a sense of childlike wonder, with the weird characters and vibrant visuals supporting this feeling. It’s refreshing to see a big-budget children’s film mostly devoid of cynicism or talking down to its audience.
The film feels like it’s pandering when it uses pop songs during emotional or awe-inspiring moments. While the filmmakers try to salvage this choice by matching the scenes with the songs, they still feel out of place and always pulled me out of the story.
Even if the song choices hurt the non-cynical tone the filmmakers seem to be going for, that doesn’t mean that the message and themes are muddled. The finale is a spectacle not in its impressive choreography or overdone CGI effects, but in the power of empathy, love and the self-love required to harness it all. It’s a beautifully told and realized message I believe will stick with the younger audience.
Ultimately, that dedication to its younger audience is what’s most admirable about “A Wrinkle in Time.” Director Ava DuVernay and company have crafted a delightful children’s summer blockbuster that sheds cynicism for exciting concepts and genuine heart and emotion.
I can only imagine how inspiring and influential this movie will be to the children of today, who will no doubt cherish this in the same way current college students hold onto Disney Channel movies and Nickelodeon cartoons.
Sam Goodrich Staff Writer
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