A Wrinkle in Time

March 13, 2018 by  
Filed under Movies

Ava DuVernay’s “A Wrinkle in Time” is an adaptation of the popular sci-fi fantasy classic by Madeleine L’Engle. Sometimes popping up in Scholastic book fairs and read by children in higher grade school levels, possibly even junior high, the story revolves around a girl named Meg and her little brother Charles Wallace (and yes, he is always referred to by this complete name), and their adventures in the universe to save their father, Dr. Alex Murry since his disappearance 4 years ago.

The story is set in the modern world, as if present day, with Meg (Storm Reid) going through all of the typical adolescent problems a kid can have at her age: being unpopular, picked on, and feeling like an outcast. Her little brother Charles Wallace (Deric McCabe) tries to encourage her, but he is as precocious as a little boy can get, and speaks at a level of an adult, so it’s hard for her to take him that seriously when he himself is an outcast as well; and is only 6 years old. Their mother, Dr. Kate Murry, tries her best to keep the family together–but the absence of the father really weights on Meg, who had grown very close to him.

He had been working on a project known as a Tesseract, which can allow interstellar travel in an instant, by causing a “wrinkle” in the universe, that we can travel through. Laughed out of the scientific community, Alex does in fact successfully create it, travels with it, and never is seen again. But Meg is suddenly visited by a strange visitor that Charles Wallace seems to already know, Mrs. Whatsit (Reese Witherspoon), who promises that her father is out there somewhere, and needs to be rescued.

Meg, her brother, and her newly acquainted friend Calvin (Levi Miller), are then introduced to 2 other seers, Mrs. Who (Mindy Kaling)–who can seemingly only speak in wisdom quotes, and Mrs. Which (Oprah Winfrey), who appears to be the “leader” of this group. They are all eccentric in their own ways, and all very sure of the kids having the ability to “Tesser” through the universe to find her father, who it turns out is captured and kept by The It (not a clown), voiced by Daniel Oyelowo. The It represents all of the evil in the world. It manifests itself through hate, violence, greed, and jealousy, in all of mankind. The kids learn very quickly that It can trick you, and lead you into darkness. In one memorable scene, the kids are on an unnamed beach, tempted by food and refreshments, by Red (Michael Pena), one of The It’s henchmen (or, an alternate form?). Eventually Charles Wallace is enchanted by The It, and Meg and Calvin have to rescue him as well as her dad.

The film tries its best to be brisk and yet fulfilling in its narrative. We are thrown into this world in which we can travel through time and space, introduced to off-the-wall characters, and expected to follow this all through without really questioning much. You don’t really have time to, either, because the moment something happens, you’re whisked away to another plot point. Storm Reid is very strong as a lead character, and we certainly can empathize with her situation. Calvin is also relatable, and serves as a good companion for Meg. The little boy is a bit tougher because he’s almost like a tiny adult, and goes from being the cutest little genius to an evil overlord (once The It has him) that it’s almost like he belongs in a horror movie over something like this.

There’s a lot of cutesiness in the beginning that bends into dark themes toward the end, and the tonal shifts are sometimes jarring. There are also sudden music cues in which a Disney pop studio tweaked song will start playing, and it sometimes takes you out of the mood of the moment. On top of that, sometimes the film just doesn’t make any sense at all. Why can Mrs. Whatsit suddenly turn into a giant insect that can carry the children through an open field? And what are these open fields? What planet are they on? Again, many questions are never answered because either the film assumes you’ve already read the book; or, they know that explaining any of this may tug the film’s pace down.

Director Ava DuVernay has an impossible task of taking this sometimes downright cerebral story and turning it into something visual. It is very colorful, and sometimes funny and touching; but overall, it is very confusing and messy, and no matter how eager the film is to please you and take you on this journey as light hearted as it can, eventually the questions that they can’t answer become too important to ignore. The wrinkles in time become stretch marks, and make for an unsightly final product.

My rating: :?