Disney’s latest film cost 100 million dollars to make, and yet somehow, neither Marvel nor the Star Wars universe are attached.
Rebooting the classic children’s novel by Madeline L’Engle after a poorly received 2003 television film, “A Wrinkle in Time” hits theaters as Disney seeks to capitalize off the success of “Black Panther,” another film from an up-and-coming African American director.
Ava DuVernay approaches the source material with gusto, invigorating “A Wrinkle in Time” with a diverse array of cinematic approaches, clearly influenced by everything from “Alice in Wonderland” to “Avatar.” There’s a vibrancy to the work that isn’t quite matched by the script and only occasionally by the actors performing the lines.
“A Wrinkle in Time” follows middle schooler Meg Murry and her younger brother Charles Wallace as they travel through time and space with the aid of three celestial beings in search of her missing father. The theatrical version simplifies L’Engle’s rich, complex novel to a linear, point-by-point adventure dedicated to love and family.
Relative newcomer Storm Reid is a solid, confident performer meant to be the center of attention, but it’s hard not to be captivated by breakout star Deric McCabe’s wonderful turn as younger brother Charles Wallace.
From the minute he appears on screen, McCabe exerts a knack for bulldozing his way through a scene with the irrational confidence of a headstrong, brainy five-year-old. His ability to flawlessly crack one-liners belies his youth and inexperience as he outshines multiple Oscar winners on a regular basis.
Casting the larger than life personality Oprah Winfrey as the monstrously tall Mrs. Which feels like a gimmick at first glance, but Winfrey provides the necessary gravitas bring the film together and give the needed emotional stakes genuine weight.
On the flip side, red-headed Academy Award winner Reese Witherspoon flies about the screen with an energy befitting the manic, yet carefree Mrs. Whatsit in a performance that makes the most of her limited on-screen presence.
The film also has a talented, yet significantly underutilized supporting cast led by Mindy Kaling as the quote-happy philosopher Mrs. Who, Zach Galifianakis at his most subdued as the visionary Happy Medium and Chris Pine as the wayward father.
Pine especially gives an all-out effort in limited minutes, bright-eyed and impassioned while not understanding how his devotion to his work separates him from his family.
DuVernay comes off of a pair of films with heavier subject matter, 2014’s Martin Luther King biopic “Selma” and 2016’s “13th,” a documentary about flaws in the American penal system. “A Wrinkle in Time” brings out the kid in DuVernay, who gives her latest feature a warmth and brightness she hasn’t exhibited to date.
It’s evident that DuVernay did the kind of film that she would have wanted to see as a child, attempting to make “A Wrinkle in Time” this generation’s “The Neverending Story.”
The complexities of the science-fiction within L’Engle’s source material prove considerably difficult to translate effectively to film and younger audiences may disengage for several minutes of exposition.
While it won’t match the critical or commercial success of its kindred spirit film “Black Panther,” DuVernay’s feature does mark a new milestone cinematically for both female and minority directors. As the film industry moves to highlight diverse voices, it’s good to see that quality hasn’t diminished at the expense of perceived progress.
At its core, “A Wrinkle in Time” gives audiences exactly what they’re looking for this time of year: a crowd-pleasing, family-friendly adventure that will keep kids engaged and entertained for several hours while providing enough humor and depth satisfy adults as well.