Disney’s “A Wrinkle in Time” Teaches and Disappoints

The movie adaption of Madeleine L’Engle’s 1962 novel “A Wrinkle in Time” carried the weight of several high expectations. It is the first movie with a $100 million budget directed by an African-African woman, Ava DuVernay. The movie also brought along a diversity to its casting that typically lacks representation in the media.

“A Wrinkle in Time” was a respectable adaptation that will be appealing to the same audience the book reached. However, the movie is forced to take on the difficult task of creating a complex sci-fi universe while also remaining a children’s fantasy tale.

Before the movie starts, Ava DuVernay appears on the screen and advises viewers to “Embrace the inner child in you … sit back, relax and be a kid again.” The best way of appreciating DuVernay’s work is to either accompany a young, eager kid or to channel one’s own inner child. “A Wrinkle in Time” is unmistakably a Disney version of L’Engle’s story which replaces anything possibly problematic, like the religious imagery that L’Engle typically includes in her stories, with distracting, colorful CGI.

In the beginning, the heroine Meg Murry (Storm Reid) is immediately introduced as the smart, yet bullied middle schooler. Her father (Chris Pine) and mother (Gugu Mbatha-Raw) are brilliant scientists who have raised Meg and her brother, Charles Wallace (Deric McCabe) to be as ambitious and interested in science as they are. However, her beloved father had vanished from Earth four years earlier, and Meg struggles to remain the optimistic and confident student she used to be.

One day, Charles Wallace introduces Meg to three mysterious women: Mrs. Whatsit (Reese Witherspoon) who constantly talks, Mrs. Who (Mindy Kaling) who can only speak in quotes and Mrs. Which (Oprah Winfrey) who is the goddess-like authority figure. As they take Meg, Charles Wallace and Meg’s friend Calvin (Levi Miller) on a trek across the universe to find Mr. Murry, the movie adds messages of positivity and love.

However, the movie does not allow the audience to interpret its message, but rather directly explains that “Love is always there, even if you can’t feel it!” At times, the dialogue can feel very impersonal and awkward in its attempt to display meaningful declarations about love.

DuVernay’s film is full of striking imagery and messages about self-acceptance, individual uniqueness and interest in science. However, these messages are repetitive and overstated throughout the film, making it less bearable. Comparatively, the choice of picking a biracial actress to play the role of Meg Murry and the “Mrses” of different races as an attempt to normalize people of color in the media is underemphasized.

The overwhelming special effects, color and costumes in the movie causes its emotional depth and authenticity to be underwhelming. All of the visuals in “A Wrinkle in Time” suggest that it is a big, exciting movie, but this ends up working against its more personal story of a young girl trying to navigate against her self-loathing. Too much of the movie is driven by images instead of a clear narrative purpose.

With its bright colors and vivid imagery, “A Wrinkle in Time” brings Madeleine L’Engle’s world to life while clearly spelling out the lessons about self-acceptance and love.