Movie Beat: Ava DuVernay’s “A Wrinkle In Time” a magical, big-hearted adventure


By Jenniffer Wardell

Rated PG for thematic elements and some peril

Screenplay by Jennifer Lee and Jeff Stockwell, based on the novel by Madeline L’Engle.

Directed by Ava DuVernay

Starring Storm Reid, Oprah Winfrey, Reese Witherspoon, Mindy Kahling, Levi Miller, Deric McCabe, Chris Pine, Gugu Mbatha-Raw and more

Grade: Three and a half stars

The only problem with the new “Wrinkle In Time” is that there isn’t enough of it.

Ava DuVernay’s big screen adaptation of Madeline L’Engle’s classic YA novel, opening in theaters this weekend, is a beautiful, big-hearted story about the power of love. The movie upholds both the magic and the spirit of the novel, helped at every turn by a fantastic cast that helps bring the characters to life. If it was a half hour longer during a key sequence of the movie, it might actually be perfect.

The movie focuses on Meg Murray, whose scientist father disappeared four years ago after her parents came up with a theory about traveling between dimensions. She’s given up hope of ever seeing him again, but then her little brother Charles Wallace introduces her to three strange women who take them both on an adventure across space in an attempt to save the universe from the dark. Occasional flashbacks throughout the movie help explain how the dad went missing in the first place.

The movie does make some tweaks from the book, such as eliminating the twins and making Charles Wallace adopted. Most of the changes don’t distract at all from the larger story, and in some cases give characters (such as the dad) more character development than they get in the book. Though fans of the book may feel a twinge of loss, the spirit of the book is still very much in effect.

The one absence that can’t be overlooked, however, is the dramatic shortening of the book’s planet-hopping sequence. Fans of the novel will definitely notice the absences, particularly the almost-complete absence of Aunt Beast, but the cut also hurts the balance of the overall movie. The journey feels too short and abrupt, not nearly enough to prepare either the characters or the audience for the final battle, and because of that the ending feels oddly too long. An extra half hour added to the middle of the movie would have made all the difference.

If what was onscreen wasn’t so good, I might not miss the absent content as much. The relationship between Meg and Charles Wallace is pitch-perfect, and serves as the emotional heart of the film. The relationship between Meg and Calvin, a neighbor boy who comes with them on the adventure, is expanded wonderfully. The three ladies are all fun and suitably magical.

And, most importantly, Meg is clearly the hero of the movie. Storm Reid is the all-star of a stellar cast, creating a Meg that’s smart, complicated and desperately uncertain of herself. Plenty of little girls in the audience will see themselves in her, and that’s only a good thing.

(Photo © Disney)

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