Nico’s Movie Review: ‘A Wrinkle In Time’ Is A Great Kid’s Movie
The children's movie is such an interesting topic, because there are two main ways modern filmmakers approach it.
The first is to create a hyperactive and colorful mish-mash full of pop music, that the under-10s will want to watch on an infinite repeat on Netflix until the parents want to smash the TV with a baseball bat. Movies I put in this category include things like Minions, Sing, and The Emoji Movie.
The other is to create something that seems similar on the surface, but has a deeper plot, more realistic characters and character development, and an actual meaningful message. These are movies I like to call "family movies", because unlike the former category most adults can enjoy these as well. Films like this include most Pixar offerings, along with things like How to Train Your Dragon and Kubo and the Two Strings. Some of my favorite movies of the past ten years (like Zootopia and The LEGO Movie) have been in this category.
So, where does A Wrinkle in Time fall? Well... It's not easy to say.
A Wrinkle in Time is the first feature-film adaptation of the much beloved novel of the same name by Madeleine L'Engle, made by the Disney monolith. Disney actually made a film adaptation of the book before, but it was released as a TV movie in 2002. It tells the story of Meg and Charles Wallace Murry, the children of an astrophysicist who mysteriously went missing one day.
Four years after their father disappears, three strange women called Mrs. Who (Mindy Kaling), Mrs. Whatsit (Reese Whitherspoon), and Mrs. Which (Oprah Winfrey) appear, and say they can help Meg and Charles Wallace find their father. I won't go into terrible detail, but the strangers say their father discovered the key to travelling through space-time, and as a result has gotten lost.
The three women (who are basically demi-gods; they can travel and shapeshift at will, and one casually mentions being a billion years old) then introduce Meg (Storm Reid), Charles Wallace (Deric McCabe), and their friend Calvin (Levi Miller) to the wonders of the universe, and what can truly be possible.
This framing device of instantaneous travel based solely on the mind is far and away the best part of A Wrinkle in Time for me personally. I love massive, heavy sci-fi and metaphysical concepts like this, and I love that they are being introduced to kids. Just to give you an example, after my 10-year-old brother read this book, he and I had a pretty in depth discussion on things like parallel universes and time travel. To me, that's fantastic! Media that gets kids thinking big always gets a thumbs up in by book.
The sci-fi also lends itself to fantastic, mind bending visuals, and this film doesn't disappoint in that regard. The set pieces are great, and we are treated to things like a massive plain filled with living flowers, to a creepy cul-de-sac filled with identical families. The Mrs. are also fun visually, because they keep changing; I guess if I was as powerful as they are, I'd change outfits every few minutes too. Why not?
However, these spectacular and out of this world concepts only made the plot of A Wrinkle in Time more jarring in my eyes. I've never read the book, so I don't know how many of these flaws it shares, but this film adaptation was painfully predictable and paint by numbers for a large part of its running time.
Many of the story beats are foreseeable from a mile away, and I found myself finishing some lines of dialogue in my head before they were said, just because I knew how the cliches were supposed to go. Now, I know I'm being a bit unfair, since this is a children's movie, based on a children's novel. But I have to admit that I had high hopes that this film would transcend the label of "for children", and I don't know if it does that.
I still enjoyed A Wrinkle in Time though, and some of the performances were great; for example, all of the Mrs. are a lot of fun to watch, and their own distinct personalities play off each other to great effect. Seeing Oprah on the screen for the first time in a while was awesome, although mostly it just made me wish she acted more. Due to the nature of her character, Mrs. Which isn't nearly as emotive as the other Mrs, and I thought that was a shame.
As for the child actors, well... they're child actors. Storm Reid does a respectable job as Meg, and I saw an impressive range from her for a 14-year-old. I don't exactly know how to feel about Levi Miller as Calvin; I felt like his character kind of didn't need to exist? As a result, much of Miller's performance involves him standing off to the side as the other characters do things, but I also think he pulls off the "teen in over his head" routine well.
Now, I have to talk about the character of Charles Wallace, played by Deric McCabe; this character knows a lot of things about what's going on right off the bat, and it's never explained and it drove me nuts. I at first thought the kid was just over-acting, but I think that's just how the character is supposed to be. In the third act of A Wrinkle in Time, however, I was truly blown away at how good this 9-year-old kid was. His performance was absolutely fantastic, probably the best in this film. I have to applaud Deric, and I hope he gets more roles in the future; I'd like to see him in something like Children of the Corn.
In the end, I was a little disappointed in A Wrinkle in Time, but I have to say it is a selfish disappointment. While this wasn't the greatest film for adults, I think this is absolutely a great kid's movie. It's important to remember as a reviewer that things like predictable story beats and cliches aren't noticeable to kids, simply because they haven't experienced as much media as adults have. In my opinion, children need movies like this, because they do have valuable lessons to teach about things like self-confidence and hope. For this film, it's an added bonus that it also introduces kids to big-picture concepts like traveling through space-time.
On that note, I'd definitely say you should take your kids to see A Wrinkle in Time. If you're an adult without kids, but you were a fan of the book, it's probably worth a see also.
See the trailer below.