Earnestness is almost impossible in 2018. Any time a show tries genuine emotion like that, it's very quickly undercut with either a winking moment of humor or a liberal dose of cynicism. Heart-on-the-sleeve gentleness doesn't seem to work with modern audiences and can be misinterpreted as sugary cheese instead of kindhearted optimism. Mr. Rogers might not work for kids today without a few winks and a fart joke or two.
The film version of "A Wrinkle in Time" doesn't concern itself with how it's interpreted by critics or anyone who refuses to watch the film with an open heart. Madeleine L'Engle's book was the same way, as the entire novel (and the "Time Quintet" series as a whole) is analogous to some aspects of Christianity. It's even more obvious than in The Chronicles of Narnia, which used the lion Aslan as a Christ-like figure, since the novel version of "Wrinkle" uses actual Bible verses to get the point across.
Director Ava DuVernay removes religion from the story, instead focusing on female empowerment, conformity and absentee fathers. The center of the story remains the same, with 13-year-old Meg Murray, her younger brother Charles Wallace and fellow student Calvin O'Keefe teaming up with a trio of magical women to search for the Murrays' missing scientist father. The group must also take on the mysterious entity known as The It, which threatens to bring darkness to the entire universe. In a very lovely touch, DuVernay's vision of "darkness" isn't violence or hatred, but hurt feelings, jealousy, unfettered ego and self-disgust.
At points, I found "A Wrinkle in Time" hard to connect with, but then I realized it wasn't really for me. This is a movie specifically designed for young girls dealing with bullies and struggling to love themselves. So many films try to reach every demographic that they can, so it's nice to see a movie that couldn't care less about critics or an audience unaccustomed to this kind of gentle optimism.
The real find here is Storm Reid as Meg Murray, who will easily become just as famous as she wants to be. Whenever I found the good versus evil aspects of the story getting a little repetitive, her performance kept me invested. I couldn't have cared less about the fate of Calvin or Charles Wallace, but I needed Meg to have the happiest of endings and get everything she wanted.
"A Wrinkle in Time" isn't perfect, and some kids might think it's boring compared to some other spectacles such as "The Avengers," but this will speak directly to some kids' dreams of the future. It's aimed at such a specific audience that it seems like DuVernay took the basic gist of the classic novel, threw out the rest and made the movie she hoped to see as a young girl. Ninety-nine percent of movies are made for people like me. It's OK if this one isn't.
A Wrinkle in Time
Dir. Ava DuVernay
Old Mill Stadium 16 & IMAX, Sisters Movie House, Redmond Cinema