Review by Russell Whitehouse
Ava DuVernay is a director who likes to reinvent herself. From an MLK biopic to a documentary about the racially biased prison-industrial complex, to A Wrinkle In Time (a Disney adaptation of a beloved YA sci-fi novel) DuVernay is a filmmaking chameleon. She assembles in Wrinkle an ensemble of A-list and child actors, as well as stunning visual effects.
Wrinkle revolves around the trials and tribulations of schoolgirl Meg (Storm Reid) and her family. These aren’t your typical family problems, at first glance: patriarch Mr. Murry (Chris Pine, lovable as usual) is a world-class astrophysicist studying interstellar travel who vanished into thin air four years ago. Six-year old Charles Wallace Murry (Deric McCabe) is an outcast, due in large part to his having the intelligence and temperament of a genius. Meg is emotionally exhausted, both due to the disappearance of her father and bullying that she and her brother Charles experience.
One day, the troubles increase exponentially when Meg, Charles and their friend Calvin (Levi Miller) meet three amazing women. Mrs. Which (Oprah Winfrey), Mrs. Whatsit (Reese Witherspoon) and Mrs. Who (Mindy Kaling) are three extraterrestrials who can teleport, or “tesseract”, across the universe. The three Mrs. convince the children to embark on a dangerous intergalactic mission to find Mr. Murry. Their main obstacle is The It, evil incarnated- and rapidly spreading across the universe. (I wonder if Stephen King was inspired by the shape-shifting, children-preying alien when writing It…)
Wrinkle is really a film about childhood alienation. Meg and Charles have psychological holes due to their absentee father. Charles probably feels this particularly acutely, since he was adopted. Both children are bullied mercilessly; their intelligence, un-childlike demeanors and household situation mark them as social outcasts. Smart children are often envied and thus bullied; children in single-parent or other untraditional families likewise often find themselves to be targets for scorn.
The film doesn’t sugarcoat the difficulties of childhood bullying and self-hate, but it nonetheless manages to portray the strength that can be gained from adversity. The It is evil precisely because it enforces a totalitarian conformity, illustrated most memorably in a 1950s suburban cul-de-sac. Its victims are tempted with offers of the comforts of being socially accepted. Meg fights against this throughout the film. At one point, Mrs. Whatsit offers, “Meg, I give you your faults”.
The $100 million dollar film is blessed with magical CGI landscapes, effects and costumes. Occasionally, this causes the film to rest on its visual laurels, which contributes to Wrinkle’s uneven pacing. Though the film is loaded with stars like Oprah and Zach Galifianakis, the characters ring a little stale outside of newcomers Storm Reid and Deric McCabe. The two child actors effortlessly channel charm and emotion. It’s easy to relate to their struggles and idiosyncrasies. Though the film is sure to inspire an interest in science in some young viewers, the film unfortunately glossed over some of the physics concepts explored in Madeleine L’Engle’s 1962 book. Overall, this is great film to watch with your kids. They will be wowed by L’Engle’s timeless story, the otherworldly environment… and will relate to Meg and Charles’ personal struggles. It will create an opening for parents to have conversations with their kids about bullying, untraditional families and embracing who you are.