This is a review of the movie, not the book. If you are not familiar with either, don’t read further, since there will be minor spoilers.
A Wrinkle in Time is a made for TV movie based on the 1962 Newbery Award-winning novel by Madeleine L’Engle. The book itself is a classic of sci fi for younger readers, and one of the first novels of the genre to feature a strong teenage female lead. I’m not going to delve into the plot here, you should read the book. This review is primarily to discuss the quality of the adaptation. If you haven’t read the book, some of this will not make sense to you.
Overall, it was very faithful to the book. There were many minor changes, but the plot adheres closely to the events in the book. Much of the original dialog is preserved and there is little of the Hollywood screenwriter heavy hand that was so evident in, say, the Lord of the Rings movies. The new dialog meshed seamlessly with passages taken directly from the novel.
The casting is what makes this production really shine. The children were well-cast, in particular Charles Wallace. It would be hard to imagine a better choice than young David Dorf as the nigh-messianic five-year-old Charles Wallace (actually a bit older, but excusable. His performance is that spot-on).
The other standout is Alfre Woodward as Mrs. Whatsit. She simply radiates her character, showing the former star’s (the stellar type) fascination with her assumed human form, bursting with curiosity about the most mundane items and barely contained zeal for living. Yet through all this, you never get an impression of naiveté, but are constantly impressed by her sense of divinely-imposed purpose.
The other characters are spot on, with two exceptions. Kate Nelligan as Mrs. Which took some getting used to. Her portrayal as a stern yet angelic golden presence is at odds with the spooky, pointed-hat-wearing character from the novel, but once I got past the initial surprise I admit that she represented the essence of the character quite well.
The other exception was Kyle Secor as The Man With The Red Eyes. He portrays his character with a lively, mocking joviality that felt out of place with the austere lifeless horror of Camazotz. He replaces It for most dialog purposes, leaving It as a barely realized threat, almost an afterthought. In the book there is the creepy feeling that The Man With The Red Eyes is as much a victim of It as the rest of the dark planet, being a mouthpiece through which It’s will is spoken. Here, he seems to enjoy his role. It works if he is the main villain, but It is still the ultimate will on Camazotz. It didn’t quite work.
The DVD contains some rather lengthy scenes that were cut from the final production, and in generally, deservedly so. They attempt to provide some exposition and include many pop-culture references that are totally at odds with the style and tone of the story. They also deviate widely from the events of the novel. They are well-lost.
Beyond these matters, the sets and special effects support the story very well, and the book’s central themes shine through. This is a very satisfactory adaptation for any fan of the novel and I heartily recommend it.