I feel like A Wrinkle in Time came out a few decades too late. Had A Wrinkle in Time been released in the 1980s with a lower budget, it might have stood alongside other fantasy films of the era like A Never Ending Story, Labyrinth, and Willow as a cult classic. With its interest in charm, wonder, and sentimentality, I believe this would have been one of those movies that kids grew up with and loved from their childhood. I think that can still happen with Ava DuVernay’s A Wrinkle in Time, but it really feels like a movie of a different era.
A Wrinkle in Time feels like a perfect movie for young kids and adults. The movie has a lot of positive messages, a great interest in science and fantasy, dazzling visuals, and a couple of well-made scenes. That being said, as an adult I think the movie misses the mark.
A Wrinkle in Time follows a young girl named Meg (Storm Reid) whose father was a brilliant scientist (Chris Pine) but one day just suddenly vanished and has been missing for 4 years. A group of 3 magical beings come to Earth and send her, her brother Charles Wallace (Deric McCabe), and their friend Calvin across time and space to find him.
The biggest issue that the movie has is its storytelling. It’s under two hours but feels much longer, which is largely due to the lack of momentum in the narrative. The entire story is driven by the need for Meg to find her father, but the movie and the characters take an incredibly long time for them to go anywhere. The adventure always feels like it’s stopping and going and the middle of this movie drags. When the movie stops, it’s usually for this magical setting that directorAva DuVernay wants to explore. Sometimes it works but most of the time it doesn’t. The last 30 minutes or so the movie really picks back up once we finally get to the point of the whole adventure, but getting there sometimes did feel a bit like a chore.
A Wrinkle in Time is based off a 1962 book by Madeleine L’Engle and has been described as un-filmable. I haven’t read the novel so I can’t say for sure, but if the screenplay is any indication of that claim then I can see why. A Wrinkle in Time’s story is so muddled, and a lot of it feels unexplained or that there were sections where it literally felt like entire scenes were missing. There is a clear lack of a tangible antagonist. The antagonist is a very abstract thing in the movie and it really makes it hard to feel threatened by something when we aren’t even sure of what it is.
That all being said, the scenes that do work in this movie really do work. Ava DuVernay is able to install some awe and wonder and goes against the grain of so much modern “dark and gritty” filmmaking by fully embracing a cheesy and optimistic attitude. I actually admire Duvany’s cheerful tone and approach to this material. She very clearly had a vision for this movie that is shown through and through.
The performances by most of the child actors are quite good. Storm Reid is excellent in the movie and I love the scenes she shares with Chris Pine (which also really shows Duvany’s talent for grounded scenes between two human beings). Deric McCabe plays young Charles Wallace, and to be honest I think he is the standout. I’ve seen some critiquing this child actor’s performance but I think this kid was incredible (if not a lot of fun). He’s fantastically over the top and fit perfectly into this movie, especially the scenes where he has to go tyrannical. I don’t like picking on child actors, but Levi Miller did not give a great performance. He was the weak link of the entire movie, and quite frankly I don’t know if I can blame him; his character is pretty pointless and wasted. He could have been edited out and not much at all would change.
A Wrinkle in Time is certainly ambitious, and at times it reminded me of Brad Bird’s film Tomorrowland (both released by Disney). Both movies are ambitious and have dazzling visuals, optimistic attitude, a great interest in science and both had hugely talented filmmakers behind the project. Tomorrowland is a much more consistent movie (but also just misses the mark). I think there is some great stuff in A Wrinkle in Time, but it is largely an inconsistent movie. I think kids and young adults would probably really enjoy it and I would recommend if you have kids or siblings (or nephews and nieces etc.) this is a fine flick to take them too. I feel like this movie could have worked for all crowds had the film been put together better. This isn’t a bad movie, but I can’t say it’s good either.