Four years ago, Dr. Alex Murry (Chris Pine) vanished in a bizarre physics accident—as the mighty blue Tick noted, “science is not an exact science.” Heroine of A Wrinkle in Time Meg (Storm Reid) is consoled in her fatherlessness by her indifferently drawn mother (Gugu Mbatha-Raw) and her brilliant little brother Charles Wallace (Deric McCabe).
Director Ava DuVernay shoots the early scenes in L.A.’s West Adams, a picturesque old neighborhood architecturally similar to Highland Park. The movie gets on its feet when the supernatural emerges: First, a home invasion by Mrs. Whatsit (Reese Witherspoon) to announce that news of Meg’s plight has been received by her space sisters. She is joined by the quilt-covered Mrs. Who (Mindy Kaling)—sadly, no relation to The Doctor. And then comes the arrival of the large-and-in-charge Mrs. Which (Oprah Winfrey). The three teach Meg how to “tesser”—fold space in search for her father. Dad is easily found, considering the size of the universe.
Wrinkle’s author Madeleine L’Engle was a devout Episcopalian, but her book is more Manichean. It was the house style of the Cold War, considering a battle of forces of light and darkness. The spiritual side was up front, in its quote of John 1:5 in praise of the power of light. This has been removed to make the movie non-denominational. Inclusivity is never wrong, but what’s replaced the religiousness is a rat’s nest of slogans and exhortations to positive thinking.
This movie is going to hit a lot of aging children hard. Wrinkle was the first nerd-book in many ways. Meg was the awkward heroine to many bright rejects, and Reid doesn’t let the character down. But the trio of stars bulldoze the picture, and DuVernay can’t coordinate this bunch who barely seem to be in the same movie—there’s no serious affection or tension between the women. They pose and smile.
Bad movies happen to good people. And reactions to the errant awfulness of A Wrinkle in Time may not represent the alt-right’s slander or white backlash from Black Panther’s wonderful world of color. Ultimately, the multi-colored style of this movie will triumph. This film’s failure won’t even be a wrinkle in the progress to come.