When Madeleine L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time was released in 1962, it was considered far ahead of its time. The time, however, appears to have arrived with the novel’s first theatrical adaptation from Disney. It took fifty-five years for a visionary director like Ava DuVernay to translate this literary masterpiece into cinematic gold. So grab your loved ones and hold on tight as you activate your tesseract for an intergalactic joyride full of magic, light, and darkness.
Meg’s astrophysicist father has been missing for four years and his sudden disappearance continues to haunt her as she navigates the pressures of school and looking after her gifted brother, Charles Wallace. But when her brother introduces her to three special ladies (Mrs. Who, Mrs. Whatsit, and Mrs. Which) who claim to have heard her father’s cry for help out in the universe, she will have to confront all of her fears to save him. Along with a classmate named Calvin, the three kids and the three beings of light will have to solve the mystery of what happened to her father.
Like most kids, I read A Wrinkle in Time in middle school and also remember watching Disney’s made for TV miniseries from the early 2000’s. The book deals with some themes that are difficult to translate well to the screen, which is why it’s taken so long for a proper screen adaptation to be told. However, DuVernay has not only found a beautiful way to retell this story in a visual medium, but in my opinion, has improved on it in many ways. She does more than translate the story to the screen, she reimagines and breathes new life into it.
A Wrinkle in Time is visually stunning. L’Engle’s worlds come to life in a brand new way, better than I ever could have imagined them. Those who read the book likely felt that the trailers looked far removed from the source and while the essence of the story is all there, the visuals are out of this world, pun intended. For example, Mrs. Whatsit’s form on Uriel looks nothing like the centaur-esque creature described in the book, instead becoming a plant-based character that reminds me of the Spring Sprite from the “Firebird Suite” segment of Fantasia 2000.
The film has some big names, but their supporting roles would be of little use if it wasn’t for the amazing breakout roles of Storm Reid as Meg and Deric McCabe as Charles Wallace. The entire story rests on the backs of these two young actors and their performances are solid. Reid in particular has to carry the emotional weight of the story and the payoff is phenomenal. I expect both to have long and successful careers.
Oprah Winfrey (The Princess and the Frog), Reese Witherspoon (A Far Off Place), and Mindy Kaling (Inside Out) play Mrs. Which, Mrs. Whatsit, and Mrs. Who respectively. Despite playing mysterious beings of light, Winfrey and Witherspoon both find themselves in familiar roles compared to their past work. Oprah is the wisest of the three, a natural born leader who seems to have clandestine knowledge beyond anyone else’s understanding. Reese’s character is the youngest, bubbly, bright, and mischievous. Mindy Kaling’s character speaks mostly in quotations from great literary minds of the past and present, including Lin Manuel-Miranda.
Future Disney Legend Chris Pine (Princess Diaries 2, Into the Woods, The Finest Hours) plays Meg’s father. What could have otherwise been a small on-screen part is expanded in DuVernay’s treatment with a prologue and lots of flashbacks that keep him more involved. He and Storm Reid both have a believable on-screen parent/child relationship and while the emotional weight rests on her, Pine’s counter-performance is a necessary piece of this brilliant puzzle. Gugu Mbatha-Raw (Beauty and the Beast) plays his wife and Disney Channel fans will also delight in seeing Rowan Blanchard (Girl Meets World) play a bully.
This film does so many things right that it’s hard to find much to criticize. One aspect that parents may find disagreeable is that it often gets scary, in some cases more-so than the book suggests it should. I don’t recommend it for young kids and the perfect age is truly 10 and up only due to intense moments. There is nothing objectionable to be found, such as potty humor or innuendos. The runtime is long, but the film is so engaging, immersive, and perfectly paced that audiences won’t notice.
A Wrinkle in Time is smart, empowering, inspiring, and a lesson to keep your light shining bright and to use it to stop the spread of darkness. In these often scary and uncertain times, a story like this, once thought to be too far ahead of its time, is exactly what 2018 needs. It’s a joyous celebration of life and the magic in our every day lives, which is why it’s so perfect that it is brought to you by Disney.
I give A Wrinkle in Time 5 out of 5 Mrs. Whatsit costume changes.
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