Movie review: 'A Wrinkle in Time'

Brad Keefe

There may be a reason that one particular young-adult book has never successfully been turned into a movie.

Madeleine L'Engle's “A Wrinkle in Time” is more than a half-century old, and generations of young readers (this one included) have been enchanted by her heady interdimensional fantasy about a young woman's quest to save her father.

The only other attempt to bring this story to the screen was a 2003 made-for-TV movie that was widely panned and generally forgotten. This time, Disney pulls out the stops with a great director (Ava DuVernay), a great cast and a deep budget.

The end result has boundless imagination and heart, but too often falls flat, revealing a story that's maybe better left to the page.

Meg Murry (Storm Reid) is an ordinary middle schooler going through something extraordinary. The daughter of two physicists (Chris Pine and Gugu Mbatha-Raw), she's intellectually gifted and headstrong, a smart but troubled student at school.

It's not just the usual pressures and cliques of school that trouble Meg. Four years prior, her father mysteriously vanished. And the mystery of his disappearance is about to take a wild twist.

Meg's younger brother, Charles Wallace (Deric McCabe), brings a visitor home, an intergalactic traveler named Mrs. Whatsit (Reese Witherspoon). Then enter her counterparts, Mrs. Who (Mindy Kaling) and Mrs. Which (Oprah Winfrey), who've traveled a great distance to help Meg find her dad.

DuVernay (“Selma,” “13th”) proves adept at making the jump to a big-budget, effects-driven spectacle. The visuals are color-drenched and wildly imaginative, although a little wonder is lost in the CGI. You may never hear me say this again, but I actually wish this one was in 3-D.

Reid is a delight in the lead, tapping into that familiar self-doubt that comes with adolescence and turning Meg's flaws into strengths. She's a breakout in a movie where the star power sometimes distracts, with the exception of the soothing power of Oprah.

With all of the exposition explaining how and why we're zipping around the galaxy, and the theme-park-ride visuals, sometimes the plot and pacing suffer. The book it's based on is not an easy translation, but things occasionally get a little messy.

“A Wrinkle in Time” is a wild ride and should be lauded for a diverse and inclusive update, but it falls well short of being a classic in its own right.

“A Wrinkle in Time”

Opens Friday

3 stars out of 5