By AnnMarie Barenchi
BU News Service
“A Wrinkle in Time” is NOT a waste of time. Despite lacking some of the depth and complexity of Madeleine L’Engle’s beloved science fantasy novel, this long-awaited film adaptation is still rich in love, diversity and oh so much glitter.
Since it’s release on Friday, the film has received harsh words from other critics. While some have fair points about the occasional fumbling screenplay or the sometimes campy CGI, many are turning up their noses at the idea of tapping into their youth to appreciate the film’s themes.
But the target audience for “A Wrinkle in Time” is young people, so to criticize it for having obvious themes like “love yourself as you are” is pointless. These are the themes of almost every Disney live-action movie. We know this.
But director Ava DuVernay (known for the Oscar-nominated films “Selma” and “13th”) took these old themes and gave them new meaning by casting a diverse world where kids can actually see themselves in the characters and discover that perhaps their “faults” are what make them warriors, too.
Four years after her father (Chris Pine) disappears, Meg (Storm Reid), her adopted little brother Charles Wallace (Deric McCabe) and her friend Calvin (Levi Miller) are whisked off on a cross-universe journey by three cosmic beings — Mrs. Whatsit (Reese Witherspoon), Mrs. Who (Mindy Kaling) and Mrs. Which (Oprah Winfrey) — to rescue him from the evil The IT.
Meg — who Reid captures with ease — is incredibly smart, no doubt due to spending time with her father in the lab. But she’s also a middle-schooler who misses her father, so she is angry, distrusting and teased by her classmates and scolded by her principal (André Holland). Even her mother (Gugu Mbatha-Raw) wishes she would just behave.
The only one who truly understands her is Charles Wallace, who is gifted, outspoken and has a knack for reading people’s thoughts and feelings. Oh, and Calvin, who seems along for the ride just to compliment Meg on her hair and smarts.
As the Mrs. W’s take the three children to different planets, Meg, the driving force of the film, battles her inner demons, whether it be her distrust when first introduced to Mrs. Whatsit or her lack of self-esteem when dealing The Happy Medium (Zach Galifianakis).
But when she finally finally rescues her father in a powerful, tear-jerking reunion, she quickly realizes that he is not the answer to everything. She has to be the one to save the universe — and her brother — from The IT by being her best self.
The Mrs. Ws, who serve as guardian angels in a way, are utterly beautiful and quirky. Mrs. Who’s vibrant colors and incessant quoting (from Rumi all the way to Lin-Manuel Miranda), Mrs. Whatsit’s bright orange braids and tough-love nature, and Mrs. Which’s glittery lips, bedazzled eyebrows and deep wisdom are easy to get lost in.
Creating this adaptation no doubt came with some challenges, especially after Disney’s botched attempt at a TV movie version in 2003.
For screenwriters Jennifer Lee and Jeff Stockwell, rewriting L’Engle’s complex, deep and downright complicated book — which, by the way, is what makes it a good read even as an adult — for the screen was probably the biggest challenge of all, and they didn’t quite pull it off perfectly.
A few too many details are left to the audience to fill in, like Calvin’s reason for being recruited for the rescue mission, how The IT controls people or why Witherspoon has the ability to turn into a flying cabbage. And we miss the important moments in the book spent with Aunt Beast and the terror of The IT as a large, bodiless brain.
But the film is still worth it. Many of the scenes are beautiful, like the floating flowers on Uriel, or intriguing, like Meg jumping along an unseen dimension on Camazotz. There are moments of laughter, moments of tears and moments of love, all brought together by DuVernay’s diverse cast that makes “A Wrinkle in Time” reflect the real world young people live in, even in all the glitter.