A Wrinkle in Time is such a beloved novel that it almost felt like they should never have attempted to put it on screen. Yet here we are with the big-budget film hitting theaters this weekend. Director Ava DuVernay had the unenviable task of breathing life into this project, and while the star-studded cast does a fine job, the film itself is not without fault.
We begin A Wrinkle in Time following young Meg Murray (Storm Reid) and her brother Charles Wallace (Deric McCabe). They are both outcasts in life, seemingly abandoned by their father (Chris Pine) four years earlier. After making friends with school pretty boy Calvin (Levi Miller), one of three goddesses named Mrs. Whatsit (Reese Witherspoon) visits. Through her we learn that their father and mother’s study in “tesseract” travel is indeed real. We also meet the other two goddesses — Mrs. Who (Mindy Kaling), who only speaks in quotes, and Mrs. Which, who is… well, a giant version of Oprah Winfrey. Together, they travel to other worlds in search of Mr. Murray and a way to defeat The It, an evil force threatening to make people turn to hate instead of love.
The first half of this film moves at a pretty meandering pace. Weirdly, the visuals are actually better before we start traversing the cosmos. The effects in the latter stages of the film suffer a bit. They feel excessive instead of sweeping and epic. DuVernay spends the early stages of the film showing us why she is one of the most in-demand filmmakers in Hollywood, but loses her way a bit in the final act. The way she lingers on characters’ reactions plays a big role in making this film feel personal despite the large scale of the story, and it’s a shame there’s not more consistency throughout. She does, however, get the best out of this great cast of performers.
Speaking of performers — what a cast. All three child actors are great in this film, with Reid and McCabe standing out big time. Reid is a star in the making. I completely bought her as the hero of this story, through every doubt and triumph. There is a scene between her and Pine (I won’t say when it takes place) that just wrecked me emotionally. It was so beautifully acted between the two of them that there was not a dry eye in the audience. McCabe actually carries a lot of this film, and at such a young age it is crazy to watch him command the screen as well as he does.
It was, however, impossible to separate Oprah the person from Mrs. Which. She is just up there doing Oprah things, only this time with the power of an actual god. Witherspoon is a little annoying, but that is who her character is supposed to be, impatient and new to all of this goddess stuff, so I forgive it. Of the three, Mindy Kaling has a warmth and screen presence that you would have expected from Oprah. Hopefully she has the breakout year she deserves.
Odd pacing is what really hampers A Wrinkle in Time. The middle third of the film feels like it goes by in about 10 minutes, and that is not a good thing. In that time we visit multiple worlds, set up the endgame, and have two major story turns that just fly by. We hardly get a chance to process what is happening before we find ourselves in the final act. It would have been nice to have more time with the three kids journeying together without the goddesses, or more time to establish the rules of The It when we get there.
By the end the important themes of staying true to who you are, being a force for good in the world, and love always winning out are nothing all that new, but lessons we need to hear more and more these days. Especially the younger generation. Though the really young ones, we will say eight or younger, should stay home for this one. There are some tough scenes that they might not be able to handle yet. But the ones who are reading age for the novel or who have read it are good to go.
While not perfect, A Wrinkle in Time is a satisfying time at the theater. While not everything it could have been, it does enough with the source material and features strong enough performances that audiences will leave feeling like the warriors they want to be.