Disney’s “A Wrinkle In Time” is the latest in yet another string of culturally relevant message movies, but with a heaping helping of glittering ambition and magic. Director Ava DuVernay‘s big budget pet project is unrestrained, imperfect and dreams big, just like the audience it is so obviously trying to reach. It’s a divisive adaptation that will have just as many detractors as it will enthusiastic fans.
Middle school misfit Meg (Storm Reid) faces the day-to-day struggles of being a kid along with her adopted kid brother Charles Wallace (Deric McCabe). Their brilliant physicist father (Chris Pine) mysteriously disappeared one night four years ago and hasn’t been seen since. When three celestial guides called The Misses (Mindy Kaling, Reese Witherspoon, Oprah Winfrey) journey to Earth to help the kids search for their dad, they recruit Meg, Charles Wallace, and classmate Calvin (Levi Miller) to hop through a time wrinkle to confront a powerful evil that is slowly taking over the universe. Along the way, Meg learns to embrace her flaws and believe in herself in order to escape the nefarious forces and return home with her family and friend.
The basic and straightforward screenplay (by Jennifer Lee and Jeff Stockwell) is brimming with platitudes and struggles with a few bouts of lifeless, stale writing. There’s a clear message in DuVernay’s unique take that encourages kids (and make no mistake, this is a film aimed directly at youngsters) to rise up and push back against the toxic bitterness, cynicism, anger, and resentment that often overpowers this world, even if you must stand alone. It’s a big hearted film with a positive message that resonated with the 12 year old dreamer that still exists inside me, and it’s one that has the potential to inspire today’s kids into making the world a more harmonious place.
If only a movie could rely solely on its good intentions. The film suffers from its uneven storytelling and sometimes clunky direction. The parts of the story that are good are really good, while the not-so-great elements are absolutely dreadful. The merely acceptable special effects are colorful with their attempts at wide-eyed wonder, but they play second fiddle to the genuinely dazzling makeup and costumes. Some visual details of the story are clever and engaging, but the performances from the entire cast range from sterile to atrocious. I’ll let viewers decide which actor falls into each spectrum.
The film aims far higher than it eventually achieves, but it’s not a total clunker. There’s an enchanting sincerity to the inspiring theme that encourages kids to spread kindness and acceptance wherever they go. And it would take a person with a heart of stone not to get a lump in their throat when presented with the idea that although we may feel insignificant, each and every one of us has the power to change the universe for the better.