Directed by a black female director, starring a young black actress, and co-starring a host of women and multi-racial actors, Disney has created a new modern classic to go down in cinematic history with the likes of The Wizard of Oz and The Never Ending Story. On top of its mold-bursting credentials, Ava DuVernay‘s A Wrinkle in Time is a film overflowing with remarkable optimism and hope for a better future, giving new meaning to “somewhere over the rainbow.” It tackles bullies, race, social justice, modern families, and the simple human need for love and acceptance without ever preaching to its audience or taking away from the basic struggles of a young girl.
The film follows Meg (Storm Reid), a teen girl four years after the disappearance of her scientist father (Chris Pine). Though time has passed, a beaten-down Meg hasn’t forgotten, reminded at every turn by school bullies (Rowan Blanchard), her overly optimistic brother Charles Wallace (Deric McCabe), and her lonely mother (Gugu Mbatha-Raw). On the anniversary of his disappearance, guides from the universe, Mrs. Whatsit (Reese Witherspoon), Mrs. Who (Mindy Kaling), and Mrs. Which (Oprah Winfrey) come to the aide of Meg and bring her through time and space along with Charles Wallace and her friend Calvin (Levi Miller) to find her lost father and try to bring him home.
A Wrinkle in Time is non-stop action, fun, and inspiration – all of Oprah’s dialogue alone will put adults out of therapy for at least a week. The adapters, Jennifer Lee (Frozen) and Jeff Stockwell (Bridge to Terabithia), make generous use of their opportunities for moral lessons through clever character traits – Meg struggles with self-love and Mrs. Who speaks almost exclusively in famous quotes – as well as through action and motif. The frequent callbacks to the darkness and the light within us is a constant reminder, but never overstays its welcome. There are a few moments of clumsiness with overly-mature words coming out of adolescent mouths, but it is entirely forgivable for the sake of its effect.
The film’s action and visual effects elevate the family action-adventure genre and DuVernay finds little bits of magic in every moment. The film’s nine-figure budget definitely shows, but in a worthwhile and stunning way, providing a spectral experience for the viewer and bringing fluidity to the heightened reality, particularly in the film’s creative visual representation of inter-dimensional travel.
Newcomer Storm Reid is an immensely capable leader in the film, providing poise, exuberance, and emotional weight next to the bevy of heavy-hitting actors surrounding her. Another major standout is the film’s youngest actor, eight-year-old Deric McCabe, tasked several times throughout the film to provide significant tone changes, from comic relief to emotional levity and even searing intensity. Winfrey delivers enormously in her larger-than-life presence, while Witherspoon and Kaling’s particular charms are utilized to fit their characters.
Verdict: 5 out of 5
A Wrinkle in Time is not technically perfect, but it is pretty close. It is a family film that everyone should see and will enjoy, combining classic hero(ine)’s journey arcs with a modern and social consciousness. The action is heart pounding and the emotional journey is unforgettable. Humor, heart, and adventure abound and proves that DuVernay is already a filmmaker to be revered and appreciated so early on in what is sure to be an illustrious career.