Movie review: A Wrinkle in Time satisfies book- and film-lovers

Mindy Kaling, Oprah Winfrey and Reese Witherspoon make magic together in A Wrinkle in Time. Courtesy Walt Disney Studios Mindy Kaling, Oprah Winfrey and Reese Witherspoon make magic together in A Wrinkle in Time. Courtesy Walt Disney Studios

A tale of science and psychology, A Wrinkle in Time imagines a scenario in which the universe wants those living within it to feel connected to themselves and everyone around them, and that the demons of depression and self-doubt are due to a great cosmic evil. Fifty years after it was first published, Madeleine L’Engle’s novel continues to inspire readers young and old with its imagination, concern for the human condition and limitless hope and empathy for all living things.

Ava DuVernay’s film adaptation is also something of a miracle, as it manages to craft a straightforward narrative and visuals from a novel filled with descriptions of places and events that by their very design defy human comprehension. DuVernay boils the story down to its most essential components, aware that the film’s audience would be a mix of those who know the book by heart and those who have never read it but are old enough to understand Meg’s journey. It’s a winning strategy: When it shines, it’s arresting visually and emotionally. When it, well, doesn’t, it races along to get to the important parts, sometimes leaving a trail of confusing story points and a glaring lack of useful exposition, which can be quickly forgiven when it all comes back around to the good stuff.

A Wrinkle in Time
PG, 115 minutes
Alamo Drafthouse Cinema, Regal Stonefield 14 and IMAX, Violet Crown Cinema

Our story centers on the Murrys, a tight-knit family where the parents (Chris Pine, Gugu Mbatha-Raw) are cutting-edge scientists and the children (Storm Reid, Deric McCabe) are up-and-coming prodigies. Alex (Pine) and Kate (Mbatha-Raw) are as passionate about their work as they are about one another and their family—which is all thrown into chaos when he mysteriously disappears without a trace. The once-inquisitive Meg (Reid), now an adolescent, withdraws from school and life, fending off bullies who torment her younger brother, Charles Wallace (McCabe), while absorbing every negative opinion about herself.

One day, she, Charles Wallace and schoolmate Calvin (Levi Miller) are visited by mysterious beings (Oprah Winfrey, Mindy Kaling and Reese Witherspoon) who bring news that Alex is not dead and has not run away, but that his research on instantaneous travel caused him to become lost somewhere in the universe, and it is up to them to find him—even if it means heading directly into a realm of pure evil known simply as the It, which is the cause of all hate, doubt and emotional disconnect.

Taken at face value, there are aspects of A Wrinkle in Time that adhere to the Young Adult movie template: awkward preteen flirtation placed at the center of an elaborate science fiction story wherein the fate of the planet/universe rests on the lead characters’ ability to conquer their doubts and embrace the true power that was there all along.

The main difference is that lore takes a backseat to emotions in Meg’s tale. How the universe came to be this way is not nearly as important as the fact that it simply is, and growing up is, in part, learning to navigate that while never giving up on yourself. DuVernay taps into the spirit of the source material while improving on the tropes we’ve come to expect from teen-oriented entertainment, delivering a cathartic and optimistic parable about a time in everyone’s life when negativity first infiltrates your psyche, and you must choose between two paths: to grow into a better person through honesty and emotional toil, or allow the muck to cement around you and define the rest of your life. A Wrinkle in Time is not the best possible film it could have been in terms of pacing, but the performances, visuals and compassion for its characters and viewers make it very much worth your while.

Playing this week

Alamo Drafthouse Cinema
377 Merchant Walk Sq., 326-5056

Annihilation, Black Panther, Game Night, Peter Rabbit, Red Sparrow, Thoroughbreds, Working Girl

Regal Stonefield 14 and IMAX
The Shops at Stonefield, 244-3213

Annihilation, Black Panther, Death Wish, Fifty Shades Freed, Game Night, The Greatest Showman, Gringo, The Hurricane Heist, Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle, Peter Rabbit, Red Sparrow, The Shape of Water, The Strangers: Prey at Night 

Violet Crown Cinema
200 W. Main St., Downtown Mall, 529-3000

Annihilation, Black Panther, Death Wish, Game Night, Gringo, Red Sparrow, The Shape of Water, Submission, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, Thoroughbreds

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