The Bock’s Office: ‘A Wrinkle in Time’ a pensive, powerful fantasy
Too many movies aimed at young audiences try to do too much in the period of a couple hours. “A Wrinkle in Time” certainly takes on a lot but makes a lasting impression with time to spare.
Meg Murry (Storm Reid) has always has a love for examining the mysteries of the universe thanks to growing up with two brilliant scientists for parents (Chris Pine, Gugu Mbatha-Raw), but ever since her father’s unexplainable disappearance four years ago, she has little interest in school, a social life or much of anything.
The 13-year-old remains hopeful that her dad will come back, though the bullying she receives from her peers proves too much to handle when she’s also trying to look out for her child prodigy brother Charles Wallace (Deric McCabe).
Her 6-year-old sibling is also awaiting the return of the father he barely remembers, yet Charles Wallace’s special mind has helped him see the bigger picture.
When the two of them and a neighbor boy named Calvin (Levi Miller) make contact with three unusual women (Reese Witherspoon, Mindy Kaling, Oprah Winfrey), they discover the tesseract, a frequency that allows instantaneous travel through time and space.
What’s more, this is the same force that resulted in Meg and Charles Wallace’s father’s departure and is also their best way of getting him back.
It’s not easy to convincingly play a typical teen, much less one who’s just self-aware enough to know their own intelligence while also being immature enough to disregard it when times get tough. Reid walks that line well as the multi-faceted Meg, fiercely devoted to her family and still reeling from some huge changes.
Learning that you can teleport to other planets has to at least make that a little better, though.
At 9, McCabe’s advanced delivery of dialogue combined with his small stature fit the part of the wunderkind Charles Wallace, but what works even more so is his ability to bring out the emotional, playful side of the young genius who’s open to both the logical and fantastic.
Enter their otherworldly guardians — Witherspoon is a particular delight as the chatterbox Mrs. Whatsit, the youngest of the bunch at more than 1 billion years in age, who also doubles as a leafy green transport upon arrival on a new planet.
Kaling is likewise amusing as Mrs. Who, which answers the question of what an edition of Bartlett’s would look like with a snazzy dress and spectacles as she primarily communicates in famous quotes. But, don’t worry, she gives credit where credit’s due, from Shakespeare to Buddha to Outkast.
As for Oprah, whose Mrs. Which takes the form of an ethereal giant, you couldn’t ask for a much better voice to provide exposition about the brief history of the universe, jumping from world to world and the embodiment of evil that’s holding your dad hostage.
You know, the basics.
An extensive wardrobe for the three Mrs. W’s — who have different costumes and makeup in nearly every single scene — is only part of the visual razzle-dazzle in director Ava DuVernay’s first blockbuster project, one which feels remarkably more personal than many young adult books that make the leap to the screen, not the least of which comes with a multiracial family at its center.
The spirit of Madeleine L’Engle’s novel is certainly there, even with the notable absence of direct Christian references, though those same themes remain in a more subtle fashion. The handling of pure evil comes in the appearance of a swirling black cloud known as IT, permeating worlds in the form of jealousy, insecurity, loneliness, arrogance, conformity, irrational hatred and other fear-based states of mind, demonstrating the kind of small start that can cause huge strife, whether you’re on Earth, Uriel or Camazotz.
Most important is the message that love is a powerful force no matter where you are in the universe, even in the darkest of times.
“A Wrinkle in Time” comes at a unique point in our culture, considering how far ahead of its time L’Engle’s original work was more than 50 years ago. A blend of science, faith of fantasy was risky then and remains a tricky balance, but it feels more suitable now and certainly functions well under DuVernay’s direction.
And, whether in 2018 or 1962, I think we can all agree that a creepy guy with red eyes is made worse with hipster-esque facial hair.
One handlebar mustache, shame on you. Two handlebar mustaches, shame on everyone.