Movie review: ‘A Wrinkle in Time’ is a visually stunning adventure that falls a bit flat

What if the reality we know is only a small fraction of the universe? What if there are worlds and dimensions beyond our own, that we could access if we only knew the secret of how to push beyond the “known” into the “unknown”?

The classic sci-fi novel “A Wrinkle in Time” imagines what traveling to some of these other worlds and dimensions might be like, seen through the eyes of a young girl who is searching for her scientist father after his mysterious disappearance. Now, the story has also come to life on the big screen with a star-studded adaptation.

Storm Reid stars as Meg Murry, a middle schooler struggling with self-doubt, frustration, and loneliness after her father (Chris Pine) vanishes without a trace. He had been experimenting with trans-dimensional travel before his disappearance, and the family wonders if he may have unlocked a pathway to visit other worlds but is now unable to return home. That’s when Meg and her little brother, Charles Wallace (Deric McCabe), are visited by three powerful beings — Mrs. Which (Oprah Winfrey), Mrs. Whatsit (Reese Witherspoon), and Mrs. Who (Mindy Kaling) — who may know what happened to their father and also seek their help to stop a dark power from spreading across the universe.

Before I dive into my thoughts on the film, I have to confess that I haven’t actually read the novel “A Wrinkle in Time.” I really wanted to read it before watching the movie, but time got away from me (no pun intended there). I’d still like to read it, especially since it’s considered to be a sci-fi classic, and I’m also curious to see how much like the book the movie is.

I liked the “Wrinkle in Time” movie but didn’t LOVE it. In an odd way, I feel like it’s easier to write a review for a movie you really loved or a movie you really hated, than a movie you had more of a “middle ground” response to. It’s easier to write about something when you have a strong emotional reaction to it, whether it’s positive or negative. I enjoyed watching “A Wrinkle in Time” but the film didn’t have a big impact on me.

I’ll start with what I liked. This is a gorgeous, visually-stunning film; the special effects (and costumes!) are amazing, and I really wanted to step into the screen and explore the colorful worlds that were depicted in the film. This would have made a great virtual reality experience. I loved how the film captured a sense of wonder about the universe and hopefully inspires the children who watch it to ask questions and embrace their curiosity.

Storm Reid is a young actress to watch, and it’s always good to see Chris Pine in different roles. I still feel that Pine is sometimes underappreciated as an actor, and I really liked his scenes with his daughter, Meg (and wish there were more of them). Their reunion is one of the most powerful and emotional moments in the film.

As to why “A Wrinkle in Time” didn’t seem to work as well as it could have, I think it ended up feeling a little too much like “Interstellar”-lite. Both movies address the concepts of traveling through time and space, and both have the theme of love stretching across dimensions. However, “A Wrinkle in Time” handled these themes a little too broadly and heavy-handedly. The power of love, kindness, and compassion is an important message, and one that will always be relevant (though it seems *extra* relevant these days). Still, it’s a message that is usually better handled subtly so it doesn’t end up feeling trite. Without giving away spoilers, the film’s antagonist (a mysterious dark force) also felt too nebulous. And I think we needed more from Mrs. Which, Mrs. Whatsit, and Mrs. Who — though what that “more” is, I can’t quite say.

In the end, I wanted to care more about the film than I actually did, which makes me sad. Because there are flashes of genuine greatness, such as the wonder brought by seeing such magical imaginary worlds on screen and the emotional impact of some of the quieter character moments, where the actors are really allowed to shine. “A Wrinkle in Time” ultimately feels like more of a children’s movie; there’s nothing necessarily wrong with that, and I do hope its message about learning to love yourself will speak to kids. Yet it’s hard not to watch this movie and wish it had attained something higher.

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