I had great fear when I heard that Disney was planning on making a TV Miniseries out of the classic "A Wrinkle In Time," because I knew just how awful most Disney TV movies are, and just how many liberties they would try to take for the sake of a TV audience. When ABC continued to postpone the airing of "Wrinkle" for almost two full years, I had even greater fear, because, more often than not, the reason for a very long delay in release is because the product is nigh-to-worthless. When I heard that the original 4-hour Miniseries plan was cut down to a 3-hour movie, that fear doubled. And then, ABC announced it would air beginning at 8pm, when most kids wouldn't be able to stay awake for the whole thing. All of this didn't bode well, and gave me the feeling that ABC didn't want anyone to see this movie.
After all is said-and-done, "A Wrinkle In Time" greatly exceeded my expectations. Sure, liberties were taken, but the majority of the items that were changed for the film were changed in a logical fashion, and would only be cited by die-hard L'Engleites.
- The casting. They didn't go for the pre-fabricated Hollywood ideal. Meg is pretty, but not a stunning supermodel with huge "assets." Calvin is kinda weird-looking. Charles-Wallace is a cute kid, but gives off an unexpected creepiness. And, despite my initial reservations, Alfre Woodard didn't annoy me at all.
- The acting. Top notch performances from all. Meg and Calvin had all of the chemistry and depth that the book demanded. Charles-Wallace, while occasionally slipping into cheese-mode, gave one of the creepiest performances I've seen since the original "Bad Seed."
- The set design. Specifically, the Murray house, and the planet Camazotz. Both were exactly what I had pictured when reading the book, and in my own screenplay adaptation attempts. The long streets lined with precise, grey tract housing was especially dead-on to my own vision.
- The cinematography. Jon Joffin, you deserve a cigar. Finally, a TV movie that isn't completely flat! There's shadow, depth, and mood dripping off of nearly every scene in this film. But, what more do you expect from the man who lit "Home," by far one of the creepiest and darkest episodes of "The X-Files." Kudos specifically to Meg's arrival on Camazotz, lit only by a slight backlight and lightning flashes. Fantastic work.
- The score. Great work by Jeff Danna, who also wrote the moody, diverse score for "Boondock Saints." (His brother is Mychael Danna, of "The Ice Storm" and "The Sweet Hereafter.") Of course, I do feel there were missteps, particularly the occasionally cartoony incidentals, but on the themes and backgrounds had a mood and depth that echoed the feelings exemplified in the book.
- The teleplay. Susan Shilliday certainly did change quite a few things, but the most important aspect remained, and that is the spirit of the book. The film displays the same sense of wonder and purpose that L'Engle infused into her novel. That, coupled with some well-placed snarky humor, made this adaptation one of the better ones I've seen.
- The very end. Call me whatever you want, but, I never cared for the end of the book. Sure it's creepy, but it's ridiculously sudden. The movie wrapped things up nicely while still providing a necessary bridge toward the book's sequels.
- The Happy Medium. Egad, what a horrible decision that was. Please, next time, make sure characters are laughing at things that are actually funny.
- The visual effects. Granted, it's a TV budget. And granted, the effects are probably over a year old now. But still, it could've been much better. The winged horse was laughable, the landscapes were plastic, and "IT" was... well, not very much at all, was it? I did like the Tesseract effects, though I think that the film dwelled on too many of them. The final Tesseract effect was fantastic, and obviously the one that the most money was spent on. If more effects looked like that, I'd be happier.
- "IT." This was one change that really bothered me. Those of us who read the book know exactly what "IT" is, and showing such obscure sections of "IT," and having the climactic battle with IT's representative rather than IT itself, I feel, was a poor choice.
- The direction. Sometimes, the film was very well-done. At other times, the direction was very clumsy and confusing. This could be attributed to how much had to be cut out of the 4-hour version to fit into its 3-hour timeslot, but nonetheless, there were some scenes that just didn't work at all.
All-in-all, "A Wrinkle In Time" is a very enjoyable film, and, despite a few wrong turns, is a good adaptation of a great work of literature.
As an aside, Amazon does list the wrong running time for this item. According to Disney's official site for the DVD, the running time is 128 Minutes.