Anyone of any age who wants a fantasy they easily can dive headlong into will find it in “A Wrinkle in Time,” director Ava DuVernay’s Disney-studio treatment of a much-beloved novel by Madeleine L’Engle that makes several youths its heroes (and heroine) across astrophysical planes.
The adventure is set in motion when a scientist, played by Chris Pine, disappears while seeking proof of his theory of time and space. His absence has a profound effect on his daughter – beautifully played by Storm Reid – who eventually sets off with her adopted brother (Deric McCabe) and a friend (Levi Miller) to find him.
This is no ordinary search, since it takes the trio on a similarly fantastic path to visually striking planets, not only to find Dad but also to stop a galaxy-threatening force. The kids get guidance and wisdom from three remarkable characters who explain the “who” and “what” of the situation – and, on a larger scale, of life. They’re represented by Reese Witherspoon, Mindy Kaling and Oprah Winfrey … and one of the neatest things about the story and movie is that they let Winfrey be very much herself in the context of an otherworldly figure.
“A Wrinkle in Time” expectedly encompasses a lot of scenic wonder, and it’s even more of an achievement when you consider such technique is outside DuVernay’s usual wheelhouse. The publicist turned director makes a giant leap into big-budget filmmaking here, after such feet-on-the-ground projects as “Selma” and “Middle of Nowhere,” and she proves herself quite agile in working from a screenplay co-written by Jennifer Lee (“Frozen’’). Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Michael Pena and Zach Galifianakis also are in the well-chosen cast.
Some may accuse “A Wrinkle in Time” (first filmed as a 2003 TV movie) of being a simplistic approach to showcasing some of life’s biggest lessons, but consider how long the original story has been popular. There’s a place for it, particularly as (to borrow an analogy from another Disney classic) a spoonful of sugar to help the medicine go down for a younger audience.
Certainly, emotion counts as much as spectacle – and arguably more – in “A Wrinkle in Time,” and the balance is handled nicely indeed by DuVernay. The real magic of “A Wrinkle in Time” is that it’s so timeless, and it’s destined to keep this a film that will be appreciated and enjoyed for generations, just like its source material.