A Wrinkle in Time.

A Wrinkle in Time

It’s gigantic heart and winning intentions can’t disguise the fact that Ava DuVernay’s modern adaptation of the Madeleine L’Engle 1962 classic is a bit of a mess.

Made to appeal not only to young girls, this testament to the power of love and inner strength is hard not to champion. Who doesn’t want to show children they are unique, special, strong and capable of saving the universe from evil? But this is also very much a “Wrinkle” for today. Not only is there a quick reference to Lin-Manuel Miranda’s “Hamilton”, there are decided social messages, loving families of mixed race, nods to anorexia, bullying, and the beauty of black hair. There so much packed in, especially in the film’s first half, what should be a potent fantasy feels grounded and joyless.

And then something interesting happens. Once we’ve established the set up, time traveling story line, and the three “Mrs.” Characters (the rather bland Reese Witherspoon, an underused Mindy Kaling and an eventually engaging Oprah Winfrey), DuVernay has some fun, letting the proceedings evolve into a kind of trippy mind bender. At that point, the visuals click in, as does the entertainment. Then, because we are more invested, the sweet wrap up moves us in a way we wanted to be moved throughout.

There are also two more reasons why the film, when it works, affects us the way it does. And they are very real, not computer generated or designed by committee. Chris Pine, who, for obvious reasons, we don’t get to see much, steals every scene he is in as the scientist whose attraction to his work is as strong as his love of his family. And young Storm Reid, as the dubious Meg, is a knockout, carrying us along on a ride that, bumpy as it is, keeps us rooting for her all the way.