A Wrinkle in Time is not at all a bad film, in fact it’s pretty darned solid. But to put the film into context, it has to be understood who the film’s audience actually is. These days it’s far too common for the term Young Adult to really just mean any film with some of the protagonists being teenagers, but the story itself trying to straddle playing to both the teen and adult audiences. Somewhere along the lines, films focused on audiences falling in the tween to teen range has largely fallen by the wayside.
Wrinkle, based on the book by Madeleine L’Engle, is one of those that plays to the younger end of the spectrum, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing. For fans who are of an age and remember Disney’s original 1975 version of Escape to Witch Mountain, there are likely many fond memories of the two lead characters, Tony and Tia. However if you drag it out and show it to an adult who hasn’t seen it, they will likely look at you like you’ve lost your mind.
Wrinkle follows Meg Murry (played by Storm Reid) as she struggles with anger and self-worth issues while she tries to protect her adopted younger brother Charles Wallace (played by Deric McCabe). Their father, Alex, played by Chris Pine, is a NASA scientist who disappeared without a trace four years earlier. With bullies and her own self-destructive behaviors closing in, three women appear, Mrs. Which (Oprah Winfrey), Mrs. Who (Mindy Kaling), and Mrs. Whatsit (Reese Witherspoon). More demigod or fey than aliens, they tell Meg that her father is both still alive, and that she alone has the power to find and retrieve him.
Standing in their way is a malevolent force called The It. It is presented as the cause behind negative influences in people. When you have names like The It, and Mrs. Who, flags go up that depth and subtlety aren’t going to be the main aim of the film. While that’s true to the extent that the characters are fairly shallow sketches, by the time the film gets into the second act and the rescue party is on its way to try to find dad, there’s some respectable topics being thrown into the mix. Reid turns in probably the best performance of the cast, as a young teen who is a budding scientist but lashes out around her confusion at having been abandoned by her father.
For adults going into the film without kids, the story will likely come across as too simplistic, but then this particular story isn’t for them. For fans of the book, there has been a large amount of trimming of the overall storyline, so be prepared. What is there holds pretty truthfully to the novel, but characters, secondary arcs, and many of the adventures are trimmed. It still holds the core of the spirit of the book together.
If you are an adult, and still watch Witch Mountain, Freaky Friday, and The Shaggy D.A. and enjoy them, then Wrinkle in Time will still hold some of the Disney magic for you, too.
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