WIUM Tristates Public Radio

'A Wrinkle In Time' Will Delight Target Audience That Doesn't Have Too Many Wrinkles

Mar 8, 2018
Originally published on March 8, 2018 8:49 pm
Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

The 1962 fantasy novel "A Wrinkle In Time" is now a big-screen Disney fantasy. Oprah Winfrey heads a star-studded cast. It is the first hundred-million-dollar movie to be directed by a woman of color, Ava DuVernay, all of which is to say big expectations. Critic Bob Mondello says if you are in this youth-oriented film's target audience, you'll likely have a fine time.

BOB MONDELLO, BYLINE: Meg Murry is 13 - a precocious 13, which makes sense when you meet her parents. They're theoretical scientists who once lectured as a team - mom going micro, meaning the atomic particles.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "A WRINKLE IN TIME")

GUGU MBATHA-RAW: (As Mrs. Murry) Think about quantum entanglement - two electrons once bonded together in love, if you will, suddenly separated by a galaxy but somehow still just as connected.

MONDELLO: Dad, meanwhile, thinks macro - trips to stars and galaxies.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "A WRINKLE IN TIME")

CHRIS PINE: (As Mr. Murry) And our most recent calculations show us that these fields connect us to other dimensions, dimensions outside of the limitations of space and time. Imagine that - imagine. Rather than enduring the oppressive rules of time and space, we could wrinkle it - 91 billion light years traveled like that.

MONDELLO: The lecture audience is skeptical, especially when dad tells them his big idea about finding the right frequency to access a fifth dimension. But he's undeterred until one day - and this is four years ago now - he just vanished, leaving Meg struggling at school...

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "A WRINKLE IN TIME")

ANDRE HOLLAND: (As Principal Jenkins) You can't keep using your father's disappearance as an excuse to act out.

MONDELLO: ...And her adopted baby brother, Charles Wallace, doing his acting out with eccentric strangers like Reese Witherspoon in a cowl that looks like whipped cream.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "A WRINKLE IN TIME")

REESE WITHERSPOON: (As Mrs. Whatsit) Call me Mrs. Whatsit.

STORM REID: (As Meg) Mrs. who?

WITHERSPOON: (As Mrs. Whatsit) No - Mrs. Whatsit. Mrs. Who is - oh, she's, like, a billion years old and way more knowledgeable.

MONDELLO: She is in fact a quote machine as played by Mindy Kaling. And then there's Mrs. Which, whose larger than life - but of course she would be; she's played by Oprah - with diamond eyebrows and an ethereal air filled with portend.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "A WRINKLE IN TIME")

OPRAH WINFREY: (As Mrs. Which) Your father has accomplished something extraordinary, also dangerous. He's trapped by a darkness that's actively spreading throughout the universe.

MONDELLO: All right then. The stakes are clear, and dad's out there somewhere. So Meg, Charles Wallace and another kid from school trip through that wardrobe - I'm sorry - I mean wrinkle and land in a place where if you're looking for your dad...

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "A WRINKLE IN TIME")

REID: (As Meg) Can you help us find him please?

MONDELLO: ...You ask the flowers - a whole field of gorgeous, floating butterfly-like critters.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "A WRINKLE IN TIME")

LEVI MILLER: (As Calvin) I can't tell what they're saying.

WITHERSPOON: (As Mrs. Whatsit) I can. They speak color. Oh, he did? (Laughter) Oh, really? Yep, he was here.

MONDELLO: Director Ava DuVernay has a light touch with these early scenes, though she gets seriously bogged down in special effects as the film goes on. In 1962 when "A Wrinkle In Time" was published, critics noted the Christian theology of author Madeleine L'Engle, comparing her to "Narnia" creator C.S. Lewis and wondered if the book's challenge to conformity could be read as a Cold War allegory about communism. No one's likely to do that this time. As presented in the movie, the film's themes of light and dark would be right at home in Oz - there's even a tornado - as would its sentiments about heart, brains and courage, all of which Meg has quite a lot of, as played fiercely by Storm Reid.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "A WRINKLE IN TIME")

REID: (As Meg) Do you trust me?

MILLER: (As Calvin) I trust you.

MONDELLO: That Meg is African-American and a girl and enveloped in a world of unremarked-upon diversity are all virtues to be celebrated. And if I sound as if I'm cataloguing those virtues rather than reveling in them, well, I was once in "A Wrinkle In Time's" target audience, but I have a lot more wrinkles now. I'm Bob Mondello. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.