At the Movies - "A Wrinkle in Time"

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Disney's A Wrinkle in Time is now playing in theaters.

Director Ava DuVernay's A Wrinkle in Time is, on the surface, the story of Meg Murray (Storm Reid), a middle schooler who struggles to fit in or move on after her father's mysterious disappearance 4 years ago. It's a film that has great messages, visual concepts, and sincerity, but lacks the balance in plot and character development to pull them off completely. Where DuVernay and writer Jennifer (Frozen) Lee do succeed is in the larger message that Meg (and, by default, the audience) is deserving of love and respect. Meg Murry's scientist father, played by the handsome Chris Pine, couldn't resist that possibility. Maybe very young children will appreciate it since their minds aren't necessarily bound by logic yet, but they'll probably also have some pretty disturbing dreams waiting for them that night. This is a children's story, after all, and children tend to believe in magic when they see it. DuVernay, who has said that she wanted to make a film for herself as a child, embraces that nearly dream logic sense of wonder, launching into the film with very little preamble and getting the kids up and out and on to their adventure rather quickly. Director Ava DuVernay took on the project for Disney when the studio finally pushed production in 2016. Meg is understandably wary when Charle Wallace (who goes by both names at all times, which is never annoying) introduces him to three weird ladies; Mrs. Whatsit (Reese Witherspoon), Mrs. Who, and Mrs. Which. "'The wound is the place where the light enters you' - Rumi, Persian", she says. Who quotes everyone from Shakespeare to Hamilton creator Lin-Manuel Miranda in spouting pearls of wisdom. Wearing patchwork dresses of satins and embroidered materials, she looks as though a fabric store had exploded around her, but Kaling pulls it off. "Be a warrior", she tells Meg. It's not about changing everything by yourself, it's about accepting yourself and knowing you're here for a reason.

The problem with the film is that much of it feels surface-level. The pain of that loss has made Meg a handful for her mother (Gugu Mbatha-Raw), and highly protective of her younger brother Charles Wallace (an adorable Deric McCabe), a pint-sized genius with a slightly elfin streak.

And throughout this fantasy book, "A Wrinkle in Time" provides timeless examples of how empathy and vulnerability can help boys and girls forge the kind of friendships that make each party stronger than they would be on their own. (The planet looks so attractive that I want to move there.) She zooms around with the kids on her back, who try out flying. Storm Reid is an inspired choice to play Meg Murphy, she turns in a subtle performance that captures the angst, frustration and uncertainty of children of that age while also being entirely relatable. Reese Witherspoon was delightful as usual with her bright smile lighting up the screen and giving life to the quirky Mrs. Whatsit. But in the end, the movie finds its happy medium.

"Kill self doubt." Your 2014 commencement speech at University Of New Hampshire resonated with myself and so many others. The film's best designs are the simplest there. A whole subplot about the conflict between Meg and her father, as well as the great beasts that help Meg recover, has been left out. That confined space seems more evil than anything else on the planet, including the brain called The It that for a time claims the soul of Charles Wallace.