When the news broke that Mindy Kaling was set to star in Disney’s “A Wrinkle in Time,” I was elated. I had read the Madeleine L’Engle book as a child and fallen in love with its whimsical approach to time travel. Fast forward to years later and one of the very few well-known Indian-American actors in Hollywood was slated appear in the adapted movie version of it, playing an angel of sorts. The character is in no way only or even about her ethnicity. It’s just a well-written role that puts Kaling in the spotlight for her talent.
That’s not the only reason this movie is groundbreaking. The protagonist is a biracial teenager and not many viewers, especially the kids, get to see a hero that represents them so wholeheartedly. The film, directed by Ava DuVernay, brings to life all of the magic of the story but falters in its pacing.
It centers on Meg Murry (Storm Reid), who used to be an A+ student but now is forlorn because her father, Dr. Alex (Chris Pine), a NASA scientist obsessed with figuring out the entire universe, has been missing for four years. She’s being picked on at school, she’s only close to her younger brother Charles Wallace (Deric McCabe), and is being told not to use her father’s disappearance as an excuse to get away with poor grades. You know, normal teenager stuff. Normal-ish.
One night, while at home with her mother and brother, they are visited by an oddly chipper redhead who calls herself Mrs. Whatsit (Reese Witherspoon). She forms an instant bond with Charles and before leaving, tells Meg’s mother that something called the tesseract is real. We learn its what Alex was working on, a new dimension of sorts that folds through space and time. Charles, Meg, and her new friend Calvin also visit Mrs. Who (Kaling), an equally eccentric woman who only speaks using literature quotes. It’s quite entertaining.
They meet Mrs. Which (Oprah Winfrey) and find out that three Mrs. are supernatural beings who heard a distress call from Alex and want to help Meg find him, wherever in the universe he may be. They tesser them to another planet, which at first enamors them all with its beauty. However, they also learn its being slowly inhibited by a form of evil, simply known as It. This evil is also taking its roots on Earth, showing up in the form of sins like jealousy.
Finally, after getting all the guidance they can from the three Mrs., the kids travel through the universe to another planet known as Camazotz, which has fully succumbed to the It. It’s here that Meg has to fight her battles to rescue Alex and also her brother Charles, whose genius mind becomes possessed by the evil entity.
While the story sounds like it’s the perfect story for children, the movie offers something for every viewer; whether or not they read the book when they were younger. The cinematography is pretty flawless; the film captivates you when Mrs. Whatsit transforms into a gigantic flying leaf or when Meg is tessering through time. The three Mrs. look full of life in their costume and the hairdos.
Kaling, especially, gets long and colorful gowns and to match with that, headpieces and accessories that speak volumes because as a character, Mrs. Who rarely gets her own dialogue. She is usually quoting famous authors, books, or people to send a message. Yet, Kaling brings her usual charming mix of humor and sincerity to the role. Whether she’s quoting Rumi or Lin-Manuel Miranda, it will make you smile.
Reid does a great job of playing the solemn, strong hero of this story, shining especially in the emotional scenes like her reunion with Alex. Witherspoon probably gets the most screen time of the three Mrs. and it’s easy to see why, she seems to naturally fit into the role. The remarkable standout is McCabe, who may be a child actor but has already proven his might with his firm hand on dialogue delivery. As for its direction, DuVernay proves why she was the right person to helm this larger-than-life adaptation of the book.
The one big problem I had with its movie was its pacing. At 2 hours, it doesn’t seem necessarily long on paper. Yet, it seems to slow itself down with some draggy dialogues and scenes, making it longer than it needs to be. This also makes the movie feel like it’s going all over the place at times. Another small but important missing factor was a better explanation of the timelines, especially toward the end, when the kids return home after journeying through all these planets.
However, these faults don’t matter if you focus on the big picture, which you should. “A Wrinkle in Time” is a gorgeous movie that’s directed and acted well. It will bring out the childlike wonder in you, which was probably its goal, anyway. It helps that DuVernay made Meg Murry a biracial character, which is so important for accurate representation. The three Mrs. were played perfectly by three actresses of varying degrees. They even got a barbie version of themselves. That’s right, Kaling is a barbie! For these reasons, “A Wrinkle in Time” will remain indefinitely special.