The book, A Wrinkle in Time, was write by Madeleine L’Engle, and was first published in 1962. I remember reading it when I was in middle school, but honestly, I don’t remember much about the story, other than it was a little confusing. It was adapted for a made for TV movie in 2003, which L'Engle was displeased with as it removed her overtones about Christianity.
This version is directed by Ava DuVernay. The story starts with young Meg, studying with her scientist father as he explains various frequencies. Mr. and Mrs. Murray are both scientists, and are studying…well, I’m not entirely sure what they are studying. Frequencies, space-time, folds, the ability to travel light years in seconds using your mind, etc. Mr. Murray is talking with Meg, and talking to her about the arrival of her new baby brother, who is about to be adopted. We flash forward several years, to the fourth anniversary of the disappearance of Mr. Murray.
Meg is now struggling in school, and her younger brother, Charles Wallace, is extraordinarily intelligent, so he’s being bullied. And because Meg is now sad and withdrawn, she’s being bullied – so it’s just bad for everyone. Apparently Mr. Murray vanished after he and his wife gave a talk at a science symposium of some sort, and he went a little off-topic insisting that traveling through these ‘space-time wrinkles’ or ‘tesseracts’ was possible. Immediately thereafter, he successfully ‘tessered’ and disappeared. Four years later, Charles Wallace has been talking with Mrs. Who, Mrs. Whatsit, and Mrs. Which. The Mrs.s are three celestial being who have heard a call for help across the universe, and come to Charles Wallace, Meg, and her random friend Calvin, to come assist find their father, who they believe made the call.
This leads to a cross-universe adventure during which the children successfully tesser with the Mrs.s to several planets, and finally find out that their father is on Camazotz, which is the center/home base of all darkness in the universe. Meg has to battle her own lack of confidence to save her father and bring light back to the universe.
Ava DuVernay has done an incredible job with the look of this movie. It is stunning and luminous. The story is a little confusing, but I think that has more to do with adapting a confusing book than with the movie itself. Apparently she chose to remove some major pieces of the book, including Meg's other siblings, and the Christian tones. I did want a little more explanation of the details and the science to what was happening - incidentally, the trailer above has a whole explanation that was not in the final movie! How exactly do you 'tesser'? Why is Meg looking like she is drowning in white sheets in the beginning, but by the end is surrounded by lustrous CGI ribbons? Again, it’s a kids story/book so that’s not as important. Along with the visuals, the costumes on the three Mrs.s are fantastic. They are outrageous and beautiful, and change with just about every scene. The casting is divine, everyone is perfect for their roles.
- Storm Reid plays Meg, and she is going to have an incredible career. She’s so charming and genuine, and when she is down and getting bullied at the beginning of the movie, her performance was heartbreaking. Also, on importance of representation – as a nerdy biracial girl who wears glasses – the lead of this movie being a nerdy biracial girl in glasses resulted in me crying through the first several minutes of this movie.
- Oprah Winfrey plays Mrs. Which, a very Oprah-like celestial being who seems to be either super large, or regular size, and offers advice and guidance to Meg.
- Reese Witherspoon plays Mrs. Whatsit, the celestial being who first shows up to get Meg, Charles Wallace, and Calvin started on their adventure. She seems unconvinced of Meg’s potential at first.
- Mindy Kaling plays Mrs. Who, a celestial being who has evolved past language so only speaks in quotes, until she doesn’t anymore.
- Levi Miller plays Calvin, and after showing up abruptly, is super supportive of Meg on the trip, even if not super helpful. Also – He looks enough like a young Ashmore that I had to double check the credits to see if the Ashmore twins have a younger brother. Apparently not.
- Deric McCabe plays Charles Wallace, and while he was charming and precocious, I wasn’t sure how I felt about him once (SPOILER ALERT) he gets possessed by the IT, but I did enjoy that the love between he and Meg was what saved him.
- Gugu Mbatha-Raw plays Dr. Kate Murry, and she has little to do, but manages to do a wonderful job with what she has – conveying how much she loves and misses her husband when explaining to Calvin what happened.
- Chris Pine plays Dr. Alex Murry, and again, not a ton to do but get annoyed that no one believes his theories, then get scared as he proves himself right.
- Zach Galifianakis plays the Happy Medium, who the travelers visit to get some guidance on their journey. He helps Meg begin to realize that she can overcome her own self-consciousness to accept her own strength and succeed. At least, I think that’s what he was doing. He was also functioning as some comedy relief.
Overall, the movie was just fine. The pacing was a little strange – at some points it felt like it was moving too fast, and at others, too slow. There’s little to no explanation given for anything, again – I suppose that’s fine for a kids story, but I could have used a little more information here and there. Since a lot of the marketing embraced the "Be A Warrior!" part, I was expecting more battling/warring to be done. I'm not sure that campaign made much sense. Meg is a 'warrior' in the sense that she does fight the darkness to bring back the light, but mainly within herself. The movie looks lovely, and the overall message seems to be that everyone is worthy of love, and that love and light will heal the universe, so hey – I can definitely get behind that.
6 out of 10 – Gained points for Michael Pena! Lost points for not enough Michael Pena.
The trailer for the 2003 version - with Alfre Woodard!