A Wrinkle in Time

Posted on March 8, 2018 at 5:38 pm

B +
Lowest Recommended Age: 4th - 6th Grade
MPAA Rating: Rated PG for thematic elements and some peril
Profanity: None
Alcohol/ Drugs: None
Violence/ Scariness: Extended peril and some violence, some scary images
Diversity Issues: Diverse characters
Date Released to Theaters: March 9, 2018
Date Released to DVD: June 5, 2018
Copyright Disney 2018

Madeleine L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time is one of my all-time favorite books. I loved it when I was 11, read it aloud to our children, and went on to read all of the sequels and most of her other books as well. So it was with a lot of anticipation, excitement, and not a little trepidation that I looked forward to the film.

On the one had, the book had been dismissed over the decades as unfilmable due to its planet-hopping storyline, fantastical characters, and genre-straddling themes. On the other hand, I have the utmost respect for director Ava DuVernay (“Selma,” “13th”) and co-screenwriter Jennifer Lee (“Frozen,” “Zootopia”) and the all-star cast looked promising. I held my breath, crossed my fingers, and leaned forward and caught my breath as the iconic Disneyland castle in the opening logo suddenly…wrinkled.

Most of what I love about the book was beautifully realized, and the movie is sure to be a middle school sleepover perennial and a family favorite for generations. It’s made straight from the heart of people who remember what it feels like to be 12 — and the way we all become 12 again in moments of uncertainty. If there’s a bit more Oprah-esque “you go girl” and “living your best life” than in the book, well, the movie features not just Oprah (who was also in “Selma”) but a house-sized Oprah with lips and eyebrows that look like someone went overboard on the Bedazzler.

Meg Murry (Storm Reid) is the daughter of two scientists (Gugu Mbatha-Raw and Chris Pine). She was once a gifted and attentive student, but since the disappearance of her father, four years before the movie begins, she has been sullen and uncooperative. Mean girls pick on her, and when she responds by throwing a ball at the ringleader, she gets in trouble. Nothing makes sense to her, and she wonders if her father left because she was not good enough.

Meg has an exceptionally precocious six-year-old brother named Charles Wallace (Deric McCabe). In the book, he is her bio-brother and they have two older brothers as well but in the movie it is just the two of them and Charles Wallace was adopted just before their father disappeared. Charles Wallace is one of the major challenges of adapting the book, because on the page he is endearingly hyper-aware and ultra hyper-articulate, but on screen it is difficult to make him believable and keep him from being annoying. It is one of the film’s most salient weaknesses that this critical character does not work.

Meg gradually learns that Charles Wallace has been befriended by three extraordinary and very strange women known as Mrs Whatsit (Reese Witherspoon), Mrs Who (Mindy Kaling), and Mrs Which (Oprah Winfrey). (NOTE: L’Engle insisted that there be no period after “Mrs” in the British style.) As disturbing as it is reassuring, they seem to know what the Murrys were working on, a form of “wrinkling” time and space to permit instantaneous travel to other planets that they call a tesseract. (For some reason, the explanation appears in the trailer, but not the film.)

Calvin O’Keefe (Levi Miller), is a well-liked, confident boy who seems to have nothing in common with the Murray children. But one day he impulsively visits them, and stays for dinner, appreciating the warmth and acceptance in their home. And then the three ladies explain why they are there. They have heard a call for help. It is the children’s father. And they are there to help Meg, Calvin, and Charles Wallace rescue him from “the darkness.”

And so, the rest of the film is candy-colored CGI, as the group visits first a paradisiacal planet for no particular reason other than a romp through a delightful garden of gossipy flying flowers who communicate via color and a soaring tour on a creature like a flying green manta ray with a rainbow Reese Witherspoon face. They visit a psychic called the Happy Medium (Zach Galifianakis) for more information about where Dr. Murry has gone, and finally they get to the planet where he is being held captive by an all-controlling force. The film brings to life one of the book’s most vivid scenes, with a pristine suburban street where every house has a child standing in the driveway bouncing a ball in perfect rhythm and all of the Stepford-style moms come out at the same moment to call them in to dinner. The book was written a a time of post-WWII concerns about conformity and “houses made of ticky-tacky that all look just the same.” But the image is just as compelling today. The 1950’s may have led to an explosion of “do your own thing” individuality in the mid-to late 1960’s and self-actualization in the me-decade 70’s, but the importance of intellectual courage, thinking for yourself, and challenging assumptions is even more important in the era of fake news and “both sides.”

The book’s most memorable message comes when Meg is told that what will help her to rescue her father is her faults. Though how those faults help is not as explicitly explained in the film, that idea retains its power here. That makes up for some faltering in the climax, some under-imagined images, and some distractions that seem to stem from a lack of trust in the audience. We don’t really need that extra back story on the mean girl or Calvin (an odd change from his home life in the books, which will be a problem if they decide to film the sequels) to understand what their insecurities are or the time spent cheering Meg on (and apologizing to her and deferring to her) without making it clear what her strengths are and how they are connected to her faults. It would be better to focus on the book’s rare combination of both faith and science and how important both are. In the book, the children visit the planets to learn about the darkness and to see that it can be overcome (Mrs Whatsit is the result of one such triumph). The movie leans more toward an Oprah-eque message of empowerment, so the focus is more on individual self-realization (and being appreciated by others, including Calvin, which seems to be his primary purpose in the story).

The three Mrses are not quite as fun as the movie thinks, though Mrs Who’s Bumblebee-like “post-language” use of quotations (always noting the nationality of the author, from Rumi and Shakespeare to Lin-Manuel Miranda and OutKast) is charming. But Reid is a heroine to root for, and the Murry family is one we are, like Calvin, glad to have a chance to visit.

Parents should know that this film includes extended sci-fi/fantasy peril with some violence and scary images, issues of an absent father, a school bully, and an abusive parent.

Family discussion: What are your most valuable faults? Why was Meg so important to IT?

If you like this, try: “The Neverending Story,” “The Wizard of Oz,” and the Narnia series

Related Tags:

 

Action/Adventure Awards Based on a book DVD/Blu-Ray Family Issues Fantasy movie review Movies -- Reviews Science-Fiction Stories About Kids

A Wrinkle in Time: Teaser Trailer from Oprah Winfrey and Ava DuVernay

Posted on July 16, 2017 at 11:52 pm

I could not be more excited about seeing one of my all-time favorite books brought to screen by one of my all-time favorite directors. Madeleine L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time is a magnificent story of a brave girl named Meg who has to save her scientist father (Chris Pine). He disappeared while testing a theory about traveling through space. The book was rejected at first by publishers because it did not fit into any one category — it has adventure and science fiction and romance and questions of faith and philosophy. Meg, like Jo March and Mary Lennox, is smart, strong, and brave — and, crucially, succeeds because of her faults, not in spite of them.  I interviewed L’Engle’s granddaughter on the 50th anniversary of the book.

And now Ava DuVernay (“Selma”) is directing the movie version. This early glimpse of the film, which will be out next spring, looks thrilling. The trio of otherworldly creatures wonderfully named Mrs. Which, Mrs. Whatsit, and Mrs. Who, are played by Oprah Winfrey, Reese Witherspoon, and Mindy Kaling.

I hope she signs up to do the whole series.

Related Tags:

 

Trailers, Previews, and Clips
ir.gif

A Wrinkle in Time: 50th Anniversary Interview with Madeleine L’Engle’s Granddaughter

Posted on February 13, 2012 at 8:00 am

Madeleine L’Engle’s classic book A Wrinkle in Time celebrates its 50th anniversary this week with a sumptuous new edition. It includes photos and biographical information about L’Engle, an introduction by US Ambassador for Children’s Literature Katherine Paterson, discussion questions, pages of the original manuscript, L’Engle’s thoughtful and inspiring Newbery acceptance speech, and an essay by L’Engle’s granddaughter, Charlotte Jones Voiklis.

L’Engle’s book was turned down by a number of publishers because it did not fit into any genre. It is the story of a teenaged loner named Meg Murray and her precocious little brother Charles Wallace who travel to another planet to rescue their scientist father. It has elements of science fiction, religion, science and mathematics, adventure, coming of age, family drama, and some teen romance. When it was finally published, it was an instant classic and it was awarded the highest prize in children’s literature, the Newbery medal. It led to four sequels and continues to be loved by each generation of children.

Dr. Voiklis spoke to me about her grandmother and the origins of the book and about L’Engle’s faith, which is the subject of some of her books, including Walking on Water: Reflections on Faith and Art and The Irrational Season.

I love A Wrinkle in Time. I read it as a kid and then I read it aloud to my children.

My grandmother wrote it in her early 40’s. She always described her 30’s as a decade of rejection, very hard for her. She felt nothing she wrote was getting published. She and her family were living in northwestern Connecticut and she wasn’t your typical housewife or a published writer making money and she had intense guilt about that. She started writing A Wrinkle in Time during a period of transition when they were moving back to New York, a period of transition. And she first got the image of Mrs Whatsit and Mrs Who when they were driving through the Painted Desert area. The landscape was just so otherworldly. She said herself that she really couldn’t explain it except that it came during a period of transition and doubt and that it was a way of affirming a vision of the universe in which she wanted to believe.

I was charmed when I read that she argued with her publisher that she did not want to have a period after Mrs for Mrs Whatsit, Mrs Which, and Mrs Who as they do in Europe. Why was that important to her?

She felt that those little typographical details would convey a great deal. For American readers, that little signal would show that these women were not typical.

You said you helped her answer her mail from readers. What were some of the questions she got asked most often?

“Where do you get your ideas?” She liked to quote Papa Bach, who said he couldn’t get up in the morning without tripping over ideas. What to write about was never a problem. More than questions, the letters that touched her deeply were the ones from readers who were so moved by what they read in her books that they felt that they could trust her. They shared a lot of themselves. The Facebook page for A Wrinkle in Time has a number of comments from people who say, “This book changed my life.” She really felt deeply honored by that and took it very seriously.

Meg is somebody everyone can identify with. Everyone feels misunderstood and alone some of the time.

And the fact that its her faults that save her, that’s important, too. She really was like Meg, the passionate intensity, the emotionalism. If she felt something she had to say it. That kind of authenticity was totally her. She wrote fiction and non-fiction and there were elements of non-fiction and truth-telling in her fiction and elements of fiction in her non-fiction, the narrative of it.

What about Charles Wallace, who is only five but is so wise and knowledgeable?

He’s a leap of imagination. It’s not like she knew anybody who was like that. In one of the early drafts, she calls him a mutant. In the final version they just say, “he knew.”

He might be the next level of evolution.

Exactly.

Your grandmother was so prolific. Do you have a favorite of her books?

I have a very strong connection to The Small Rain, which was her first book. She was always a little disappointed when I told her that. “Well, I hope my books get better!” But I thought Katherine Forrester, who was the protagonist, was terrific, and that book tackled young womenhood with great insight.

What did she teach you?

One of the most important things I learned from her was her sense of discipline. And discipline as a way of creating order so there would be opportunities for growth. She practiced the piano religiously. She went to bed every night at nine o’clock. She took a bath and shut the twelve shutters in her bedroom in a very methodical way. When I was a teenager, I didn’t get that! But the sense of order that an outward discipline gave her helped with the internal discipline needed for writing and using her writing to make sense of the chaos that is in everybody’s life.

The religious discipline worked the same way, the liturgical calendar, the liturgical year. She read the Bible every night. She liked to quote Karl Barth, who said, “I take the Bible much too seriously to read it literally.” It gave her a framework.

Related Tags:

 

Books
THE MOVIE MOM® is a registered trademark of Nell Minow. Use of the mark without express consent from Nell Minow constitutes trademark infringement and unfair competition in violation of federal and state laws. All material © Nell Minow 1995-2024, all rights reserved, and no use or republication is permitted without explicit permission. This site hosts Nell Minow’s Movie Mom® archive, with material that originally appeared on Yahoo! Movies, Beliefnet, and other sources. Much of her new material can be found at Rogerebert.com, Huffington Post, and WheretoWatch. Her books include The Movie Mom’s Guide to Family Movies and 101 Must-See Movie Moments, and she can be heard each week on radio stations across the country.

Website Designed by Max LaZebnik