I went to bed thinking I’d watched something vaguely disappointing; I woke up wondering if I’m woefully underappreciating it. Director Ava DuVernay adapts Madeleine L’Engle’s novel about a troubled 13-year-old girl named Meg (Storm Reid) who undertakes an adventure to find her long-missing scientist father (Chris Pine), assisted by her younger brother (Deric McCabe), a classmate (Levi Miller) and three mysterious supernatural beings (Oprah Winfrey, Reese Witherspoon and Mindy Kaling). The fantasy component of Meg’s trans-dimensional quest initially feels a bit thin, including characters soaring over a landscape of floating islands that feels a bit like DuVernay’s Ava-tar. But while a primal battle between the forces of light and darkness is the central external conflict, the script hones in on the feeling of being an unhappy outsider, with unsettling imagery that turns happy-family settings like a suburban cul-de-sac and a busy beach into nightmare moments. Reid brings a prickly energy to the protagonist role, emphasizing the idea that this is less a family-friendly blockbuster than a reminder that anyone, no matter what others try to convince them, has the capacity to be a hero.
Director: Ava DuVernay
Producer: Jim Whitaker, Catherine Hand, Doug Merrifield and Adam Borba
Cast: Storm Reid, Oprah Winfrey, Reese Witherspoon, Mindy Kaling, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Michael Peña, Zach Galifianakis, Chris Pine, Levi Miller, Deric McCabe, André Holland and Rowan Blanchard