There are spoilers in this review.
A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle is one of those books that stays with you after childhood. It was published in 1962, but I read it as a little girl. I’ve always liked weird and colorful types of stories. When this was announced, I was actually surprised it took so long to make, since film companies seem all about re-purposing popular old things and making them new now. The thing to know about this movie is very simple: it was made for children. If you can see this through the eyes of your 10-13 year old self, or want to introduce the series to your child/relative/someone you know this way, it’ll be perfect. The movie doesn’t really have an interest in explaining too much or translating to adults; it plays to the imagination and spectacle that draws children in. This wasn’t really made for you … and that’s okay. But there are still some good messages to take from it.
The main character is Meg (Storm Reid); she’s an outcast and troubled young woman who lost her brilliant scientist father (Chris Pine) years before. He disappeared one day and she’s never fully recovered. She’s plagued with insecurities and skepticism at the world, and it gets her into trouble. Her brother Charles Wallace (Deric McCabe) is a genius child at only six and has made some mysterious magical new friends, Mrs. Whatsit (Reese Witherspoon), Mrs. Who (Mindy Kaling), and Mrs. Which (Oprah Winfrey). They tell Meg they know where her father is, and she has to go on an adventure with her brother and school friend Calvin (Levi Miller) to do it. She’s uncertain and this unsettled spirit in her often drags her down on their journey. They go to other worlds, meet new people, and find out their father is kept in a planet of evil, where the cruel and mysterious IT exists to poison the galaxy with its darkness. Meg has to gain confidence in herself and tap into the strongest force of nature to save the day: Love.
It actually is a very simple story if you think about it, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing. The movie cuts out several things from the book that probably would be a little too much. There’s enough going on without adding centaurs and other planets, although I’m sure some of the audience would have liked answers about who the Mrs. characters even were. Keeping that mystery is important to the film, because childhood is about wonder and belief, before the world sort of beats that out of them to be functioning members of society. That’s the pessimist in me talking, but that’s why I appreciate something so unashamedly sweet and positive. I did like the focus on Meg’s flaws and how she could make them into a strength, especially her stubbornness which meant she didn’t give up on people no matter what. One of the most powerful moments in the movie for me was when she’s trying to get through to her possessed brother and says that she deserves to be loved. It touched my heart. It’s hard even for adults to believe they deserve to be loved, but children are so much more vulnerable, and it’s good for them to learn those things young and hold on to them.
The actress who played Meg, Storm, should be commended for an incredible performance here. She manages to play uncertain and troubled and angry, while at the same time with a force of will that leads her into the role of heroine. Meg has a lot of sadness and fury in her, and Storm played it with an open hearted vulnerability that really rang true to me. All the actors are fine in their role, although I wish Mindy was allowed to say more, and I’m not sure why Zach Galifianakis was added as a gender-swapped Happy Medium. Is it because they felt there were too many women in it? It also added a weird twist of Mrs. Whatsit being in a semi-relationship with him, because god forbid a male character be added in without a romance also included. Even as a side note it seemed unnecessary. He did a good job, but it was a choice that didn’t make a lot of sense to me. Deric McCabe did his best to play Charles Wallace, but it is a lot easier to imagine a precocious genius child in a book than have a child attempt to play that role. They ended up making him more carefree and cute than polished and brilliant, and I get why; the actor can only do so much.
It was a beautiful movie, the visual design was out of this world. I spent several minutes in this just smiling and enjoying the colorful intensity of it. It looked fantastic. I loved the costumes and makeup for everyone. It hit all the beats I really wanted out of it, and they didn’t drag it on too long. I had a pleasant experience, and I feel if I was a child it would have knocked my socks off. Generally, the changes they made from the book made sense to have a clearer purpose. The emphasis on Meg growing up and embracing confidence and belief was lovely. Her strong relationship with her father and with her brother, refusing to give up on either of them, made me really want to hug her. I am really glad I saw the movie, and I look forward to showing my niece and nephew it later in their life. I wouldn’t show it to anyone under six, as there’s some genuinely creepy moments that might stick with them. Critics really didn’t like this movie, and I kind of see why? It wasn’t made for them. It was made for the children who still want to dream of fantasy worlds and saving the day against evil. It was also a great push for representation, considering they cast the biracial Storm as Meg, leading to some grumbling from fans. You can’t possibly say that she wasn’t the best choice for her; she is an incredible actress and I see great things in her future. I’m really happy biracial families and children get to see themselves in this wonderful character. The movie worked for little me who loved this book and remembered being immersed into a wild adventure! Just go in with lowered expectations and a willingness to respect the aimed audience.