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September 2018

A Wrinkle in Time

Platform(s): Movie
Genre: Adventure
Publisher: Walt Disney Pictures
Release Date: March 9, 2018


Movie Review - 'A Wrinkle in Time'

by Adam Pavlacka on March 9, 2018 @ 12:00 a.m. PST

In A Wrinkle in Time, three otherworldly beings send Meg, her brother, and her friend to space to find her scientist father, who had disappeared four years ago.

Madeleine L'Engle's "A Wrinkle in Time" is a classic piece of American literature. It's a fantasy novel that is both a thrilling adventure and a personal tale about rising above your faults and not settling for conformity. It's about having faith in yourself and forgiving others. It's a story with multiple layers that both adults and kids can read and enjoy. Ava DuVernay's big-budget take on the story is visually stunning but lacks the depth and multilayered plot devices that made the original novel so compelling.

Bringing "A Wrinkle in Time" to the big screen was always going to be a challenge, and DuVernay's mistake was trying to rush the story rather than giving it room to breathe. At 109 minutes, "A Wrinkle in Time" feels rushed, with key story elements dropped or glossed over. This is a film that really should have been on par with Peter Jackson's "Lord of the Rings" saga. If DuVernay had gone that route, "A Wrinkle in Time" likely would have cost more, but it would've been a better film for it.

The film is at its strongest when 14-year-old Storm Reid is on screen opposite 9-year-old Deric McCabe. As Meg Murry and Charles Wallace Murry, the two are the heart and soul of this story. Even with large subplots missing, the two take what material they have and let their emotions flow. In a few years, both Reid and McCabe will likely be well-known actors, as the quality of performance is obvious.

Visually, "A Wrinkle in Time" is strong, with its fantasy environments looking like something out of a Final Fantasy game. Much care obviously went into the art direction, with the film never afraid to stretch its wings in this area. DuVernay isn't afraid to show off those fantasy environments either, slowing down the pacing as the kids "tesser" from world to world. It's an indulgence that works for the individual scenes, but it ends up being at the expense of moving the plot forward. Every minute we spend admiring scenery is one less minute to develop a character.

Among the core themes of the original novel were the ideas that children could solve tough problems, that uniqueness was better than conformity (in a subtle criticism of communism), and most importantly, forgiveness. Forgiveness is an element that is completely exorcised from the film, and it ends up hurting Meg's journey as a character.

We see some hints of it in the film, where the antagonist ("IT") is shown to have hurt those who hurt Meg, and a narrow escape that happens in the novel also happens here — partially. A whole subplot about the conflict between Meg and her father, as well as the great beasts that help Meg recover, has been left out. A mere visual flash is all that is left, and the film is weaker for it.

Michael Peña's role as Red, IT's main henchman, could have been amazing, but here, he is limited to what is essentially a brief stint as a carnival barker. He doesn't have any of the threat or gravitas of the character in the book beyond a superficial level.

Ultimately, that is the underlying problem with "A Wrinkle in Time." As a film, this adaptation feels completely superficial. It shifts between comedy, drama and suspense, but there is never a sense of feeling for the characters. Their motivation is spelled out because it has to be; it doesn't flow naturally from their actions.

If you're a fan of the novel, seeing "A Wrinkle in Time" on the big screen is a fun, if shallow, experience. If you've never read the novel, don't expect anything more than a wandering plot and strong visuals. "A Wrinkle in Time" is a fun family film, but this version is not going to be a classic.

Score: 6.5/10

"A Wrinkle in Time" is rated R and has a running time of 1 hour and 49 minutes. It is showing in 2-D, 3-D, and IMAX 3-D.

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