My personal history with A Wrinkle In Time is short. I've known it existed as a book, but I never read it growing up and it just never got into my “to read” pile as an adult. So, I went into Ava DuVernay's adaptation pretty much blind.
And I liked it. A lot.
Is it perfect? Nope. There is some on-the-nose exposition at the beginning that had me dreading the rest of the movie. Young Charles Wallace overhears two teachers talking about his sister, Meg, our protagonist and they are there to explain to the cheap seats Meg's whole backstory, why she's withdrawn and moody and why the school bullies are drawn to her in two or three back and forths. Very lazy, but at least DuVernay and screenwriters Jennifer Lee and Jeff Stockwell make these character integral to kicking off the next scene, in which Meg confronts one of her bullies.
And the rest of the movie is fairly clear of that kind of exposition, letting the actions of the characters and visuals propel the story instead of some character explaining to us what's going on at every step.
At the end of the day, that's a nitpick. I can easily see some people being turned off at the heavily CG'd fantasy worlds that unfold as Meg, Charles Wallace and Meg's friend Calvin go on an adventure to find her missing father, but thanks to a particularly layered and charismatic leading performance by Storm Reid I was in for the ride.
The film emotionally hooked me thanks to that character and the overall message of hope, kindness and empathy. It also helped that when “The It” comes into the picture DuVernay didn't shrink away from making it creepy. I got tone flashes of some of my favorite '80s kids fantasy, like The Neverending Story, Legend, Something Wicked This Way Comes and Labyrinth as I was watching this. It's always appreciated when a family film decides to embrace the weird and unsettling and this one does just that.
But the real takeaway here is the message of positivity, not just for the world, but for yourself as well. Put love out into the world, but don't forget to keep a little bit of it for yourself. The villain of the piece is an entity that feeds your deepest, darkest fears. It's not something that influences you to be mean to other people... that happens, but it happens because you don't like yourself. You obsess over your flaws and don't view them the things that make you unique.
For children watching that's a powerful pill buried in the spoonful of sugar of the fun adventure story, especially since most of them are about to experience the brain-melting lightning storm of hormones and self-doubt that comes with puberty.
The acting is great across the board. Chris Pine proves yet again he's one of the most charismatic actors in the business right now, Levi Miller continues to be a promising up and comer (he was Peter Pan in the recent not-great PAN and was the lead of a fun little Christmas-set horror flick called Better Watch Out), Deric McCabe is a bit precocious as the loud, super smart 6 year old Charles Wallace, but I found him to have a definite spark that kept him from becoming annoying and, as I mentioned before Storm Reid really makes this movie for me.
She brings such a level of depth to Meg without making her a broody young teen. She's so good at making the character feel effortlessly real that I know she has some real chops. Every time you see something on the screen that looks easy you know it was anything but. A whole lot of work goes into making things feel like no work went into them.
She's great and has a great support system. Oprah Winfrey, Reese Witherspoon and Mindy Kaling are essentially the Blue Fairy, The Fairy Godmother and the Good Witch of the North mixed together and split into three people and they play their omniscient beings of good and light with a knowing smile. There's some trickster in them and that helps keep them from just being a type.
Ultimately, I cared about the story because I cared about Meg and SHE cares about the story. You like Calvin and her dorky little brother because she likes them. You want to see her reunited with her father because she so desperately needs it to happen. You get wowed by the fantasy worlds she enters because she is. Meg is the key and also happens to be the best thing about the movie.
I don't know if A Wrinkle In Time is as big of a movie as something like Black Panther, but I am positive that for a certain age range this film will be hugely influential and important. I'm an adult that dug it, so there will be those, too, but this is a film that kids are going to obsess over. Children of color, white kids, boys and girls... it's about as an inclusive story as you could hope for and the way DuVernay filmed it was designed to draw you into this crazy world.