The 2003 television adaptation of Madeleine L'Engle's award-winning
children's book A Wrinkle in Time is sure to bring out
passionate reactions from fans of the book: some excited to see their
beloved book brought to the screen at last, others horrified at the
way the adaptation was made.
I enjoyed A Wrinkle in Time as a child, but it wasn't one of
my favorites, so I was able to bring a fairly objective perspective
to the table as I watched the television version. In truth it's not
bad, taking L'Engle's distinctive story and bringing its main
elements to life in a reasonably entertaining way. I'm not one to
quibble over cosmetic changes, such as having actors who don't look
exactly like the way the characters are described in the book, but I
do think that the adaptation of A Wrinkle in Time makes a
number of missteps that result in a less engaging story.
The main plot structure is the same. We meet six-year-old Charles
Wallace, who is extremely intelligent but generally assumed to be
strange or retarded because he'll only speak in front of his family;
his sister Meg; and their mother, a brilliant scientist. Apart from
the fact that their father (another scientist) is missing, life is
relatively normal, until a strange being who calls herself Mrs.
Whatsit blows in, summoning Meg, Charles Wallace, and their neighbor
Calvin on a a strange quest across space and time to rescue their
father and fight against an evil force.
Young David Dorfman pulls off a very difficult acting job here,
managing to be convincing as Charles Wallace, who has to be lovable,
obviously intelligent, and later demonic and creepy. The other actors
are merely passable; Meg and Calvin seem like they could have been
transplanted from any other after-school special. Meg in particular
is a bit of a shame, since she's fairly bland throughout, and the
final scenes in which Mrs. Whatsit praises her end up feeling rather
Probably the worst offender in A Wrinkle in Time is its CGI.
Mrs. Whatsit's centaur form is frankly hideous: it looks like it was
made out of plastic, left too long in the sun until it started to
melt, and then was hastily reformed into an approximation of the
right shape. Considering that this is supposed to be an awe-inspiring
and beautiful creature, the deformed-looking shape is bad enough, but
it's also extremely fake-looking, not even remotely looking like it
belongs in the same frame as the live actors.
The scenes in Camazotz, where the characters go to rescue their
father from the clutches of IT, are handled reasonably well,
capturing the creepy and oppressive feel of this part of the book.
I'm not as convinced by the portrayal of IT itself, though: the
filmmakers have opted to go for a more elaborate CGI version of IT
rather than the stark yet disturbing image from the book. The result
is that a fairly memorable scene in the book ends up feeling fairly
ordinary. On the bright side, though, some of the more abstract
effects, like the tesseract, are handled quite well.
Apparently originally conceived of as a four-hour miniseries, A
Wrinkle in Time was cut down to a shorter running time for its
television release; sources claim that the final version was a
three-hour cut. I'm assuming that this three hours included
commercials, because what ends up on the DVD (presented as a single
movie) runs a total of 128 minutes: barely over two hours.
When I saw the sometimes rather cramped-looking framing of A
Wrinkle in Time, I had my suspicions that 1.33:1 might not be the
original aspect ratio, and (unfortunately) it turns out I was right.
The original 1.78:1 widescreen ratio has been pan-and-scanned here.
What was Disney thinking? That since it was made for TV anyway it
didn't merit a proper transfer? In any case, it's very disappointing,
especially since many of the scenes in the film would have looked
much more impressive with a wider image.
Apart from missing a substantial part of the image, A Wrinkle in
Time looks merely average. The colors are handled well, looking
bright and natural, but contrast is a bit on the heavy side, and the
image is rather soft overall. There's a fair amount of edge
enhancement, and some grain is apparent in the darker shots.
The Dolby 5.1 sound of A Wrinkle in Time does a nice job of
presenting clear, clean-sounding dialogue and special effects. The
overall sound is well balanced, with a decent sense of immersion in
Of most interest to fans of the book (and film) will be a ten-minute
interview with Madeleine L'Engle; it's an interesting piece in which
she discusses various topics such as the ideas behind the book. An
11-minute featurette called "The Actors: Working the Wrinkle"
is a fairly generic "let's talk about how much we loved doing
this movie" piece. About 17 minutes of deleted scenes are also
included: the five scenes can be watched separately or with a "play
all" feature. Incidentally, the deleted scenes appear in anamorphic widescreen, adding a nice touch of insult to injury for the film's pan-and-scan presentation.
Wrinkle in Time is one of your favorite books of all time, it's
probably best that you stay away from this television adaptation, as
it will undoubtedly give you a headache. If you're not passionately
attached to the book, or haven't read it, though, the 2003 television
version offers a decently entertaining story, one that's likely to
appeal to both younger viewers and their parents. Ordinarily I'd give
this film a "recommended" but considering that the DVD
release offers only a pan-and-scan version of the film, without the
option of watching it in its original widescreen presentation, I can
only suggest that you rent it.