"A Wrinkle in Time" has enough heart to overcome missteps
“A Wrinkle in Time,” for all its faults, may be the definitive portrait of the middle school experience. If nothing else, that is an achievement. The flaws aren’t varied so much as they’re recurring, as Ava DuVernay’s film suffers from tonal inconsistency, muddled visual effects and a subpar third act.
When this baby hits 88 miles per hour, though, you’re going to see some serious shit. Okay, okay, so the not-even-two-hours-with-credits Disney family film isn’t exactly “Baby Driver” but the pacing is actually one of its strong suits. So, too, are the thematic elements I hinted at in the lede.
Storm Reid doesn’t just have the name of a future movie star, she’s got the acting chops, too. Her character, Meg, gets a great arc in this film and I have a hard time believing anyone other than DuVernay pulls it off. Sure, the core concept of loving yourself as you are isn’t novel in it of itself, but this is a little more adult than in most films of the genre without quite teetering into high school territory. It’s a careful balancing act, and one DuVernay handles brilliantly.
That’s why it’s a shame the tone isn’t handled as well. The “Misses” are, well, mostly misses; at least, they don’t seem to fit into the rest of the film. While at times that “fish out of water” sentiment works (and is the point, of course) at others it doesn’t really match with the words coming out of the characters’ mouths. The cheery, cheerful tone combats with commands from the all-powerful beings to “be a warrior.” Combine that with the fact that three kids are sort of being trained to battle a black goo monster and, you know, it all winds up being a little confusing.
That leads to the third act, which gets into territory that’s frankly not all that interesting and relies too heavily on so-so acting from one of the child actors. And, as too often happens in these films, we see a protagonist fight a giant CGI monster. Listen, there are a lot of liberties taken from a 50-year-old book, one more could have been taken.
The look of the film in these moments is all too familiar to what has come before it, whether it be a part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, “Pete’s Dragon,” or another remade Disney classic. But DuVernay reminds you why so many, myself included, were so excited when she was announced as the director of this project. Her presence behind the camera is absolutely incredible; she captures faces better than almost anyone working today, and the vibrancy of colors on the screen were a highlight.
And the heart of the film still beats loudly. That, in the end, is what makes “A Wrinkle in Time” worth watching. Through the missteps I couldn’t stop thinking about what a great character Meg is and how much she means to me as someone who suffered through middle school, and how much she clearly means to DuVernay. That heart, through the highs and lows of the film, is what kept me coming back around on this film. There’s a good chance she’ll keep you coming back, too.