In a fantasy movie where floating flowers speak in color, vast stretches of the universe are traversed, and Oprah stands 20 feet tall with BeDazzler™-treated eyebrows, it’s surprising that all its villainous faces take on human form. Evil, no matter how cosmic the journey goes, will always exist on Earth in the people around us. Ava DuVernay’s A Wrinkle in Time teaches kids (and gives adults a friendly reminder) that love trumps hate, proactive kindness can turn a tide, and how it just doesn’t pay to be a jerk.
More child heroes on film need to be like Meg Murry (Storm Reid). Her quest to find her father is fueled by the love she feels for her friends, family, and enemies. She is also a follower and teacher of science and dutifully stands by her informed decisions. Meg is a character of formidable depth, and Reid promises to be one of the next young-but-big talents in the movie industry.
The same cannot be said of Meg’s allies. Her friend Calvin (Levi Miller) amounts to a half-baked love interest, while her younger brother Charles Wallace (Deric McCabe) is more of a high-pitched annoyance than the prodigy genius he’s reputed to be. And when it comes to the three supernatural “Mrs.” characters who assist the children, Oprah’s genuine, heartfelt performance as Mrs. Which inadvertently downsizes Mrs. Whatsit (Reese Witherspoon) and Mrs. Who (Mindy Kaling) into afterthoughts by comparison. Filling out the supporting cast are the Happy Medium (Zach Galifianakis) and Red (Michael Peña), both of whom earn an audience smile due to the mere novelty of actor recognition rather than any worthwhile scripting or character choices.
Thanks to the tesseracting powers of the magical female trio, the children visit exciting new worlds teeming with vivid color, but all good things come at a price; the first act requires a slog through a dull buildup on Earth where exposition is glutted through two teachers at Meg’s school who gossip about her troubled situation five feet away from her, while a nearby Charles Wallace screams to a full playground about how beautiful his sister will be one day. Once the formalities are out of the way though, DuVernay allows plenty of time for imaginative depictions of the celestial and fantastic that would be otherwise difficult to explain in words. One particular sequence near the end of the film is like a friendlier reimagining – as if a child’s hearkening back – of 2001’s famous star-gate sequence.
Despite its faults, A Wrinkle in Time’s lessons cannot be minimized in a place where hate permeates every major news headline. It’s necessary to teach our children the importance of outward affection towards others when doing the very opposite is often the desirable and effortless choice. These are the same lessons of love that Madeleine L’Engle’s book has taught young readers for decades, and society will hope that time won’t soon forget them.