After delivering the powerful Best Picture nominee Selma and helming the gripping, Oscar-nominated documentary 13th, director Ava DuVernay jumps into the big leagues with the $100 million blockbuster A Wrinkle in Time. However, while the film does reach for the stars with its jaw-dropping visuals mixed with emotional thematic material, it still is nearly bogged down by its predictable and hastily written story.
Based on the children’s novel by Madeleine L’Engle, A Wrinkle in Time follows the story of a girl named Meg Murry (Storm Reid) whose physicist father (Chris Pine) has gone missing for four years, leaving her withdrawn. But when she discovers a new form of space travel, she goes on a mission across the universe with her brother Charles Wallace (Deric McCabe) and friend Calvin (Levi Miller) to save her father. On their journey, they are aided by three witches; Mrs. Which (Oprah Winfrey), Mrs. Whatsit (Reese Witherspoon), and Mrs. Who (Mindy Kaling), who try to not only help Meg find her father but shape her into the warrior that she can become so she can fight a villainous entity engulfed in darkness.
This world that our main characters travel to is a world of dazzle, wonder, and intrigue thanks to the awe-inspiring visual effects and the art direction. As a result, it’s impossible to look away from the screen. What also makes the journey worth watching is the performances by a few members of the cast. Storm Reid is a breakthrough as Meg Murry while Deric McCabe is a scene-stealer as the precocious Charles Wallace. Also, the actresses playing the three witches manage to deliver, with Reese Witherspoon being the standout amongst them as Mrs. Whatsit, the witch who is the most communicative with the three children yet is open about her skepticism over Meg being able to persevere on this journey due to her stubborn nature.
However, in spite of the film boasting an amazing cast, it is still chock full of wasted talent. The film features amazing actors like Chris Pine, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Zach Galifianakis, Michael Pena, and Andre Holland yet it doesn’t do anything with them. Heck, Andre Holland, who plays the principal of Meg’s school and who was also brilliant in his supporting role in the Best Picture winning Moonlight, has practically one scene. While the film may be Meg’s story, at the same time, I couldn’t help but wonder why these big names were cast since the film doesn’t properly utilize their talents.
The fact that this journey that the characters go on doesn’t go on longer proves to be a major hindrance as well. At about 109 minutes, this movie is too short. As a result, the already cliched storyline about Meg being “the one” to fight the villainous darkness becomes wrapped up too quickly. If the film had been a bit longer, we would’ve seen more of the supporting characters fleshed out more and we would’ve seen more of this wondrous world the film takes place in.
But in spite of its length and muddled storyline, A Wrinkle in Time is still worth recommending for its visuals and for its leading performances. It also is applaudable because of how it features a diverse cast without making a political statement and it allowed a director like Ava DuVernay to work on an ambitious large scale picture. Even if the product didn’t entirely come together, I’m still anxious to see what she does next.