I’ll go with the critics on this one: there were lots of things I liked about this movie, but ultimately it was unsatisfying.
First, the good. The casting was inspiring. I loved seeing people of all different skin colors working together as equals, something I rarely see in movies. Loved Oprah playing herself. The movie was visually beautiful — I saw one review that complained that the decrepit Mrs. characters in the book were glammed up so much, but I enjoyed that.
And now the complaints. The biggest problem I had with this movie was the last half hour or so, when Meg rescues first her father and then her little brother from the evil Camazotz. Meg finds her father pretty easily: she puts on the magic glasses from Mrs. Who, and then sees a blueprint appear with stairs she can climb. Evil Charles Wallace looks furious, but does nothing, even though when she tries to come back down those same stairs, he makes them disappear and she falls. Meg and Calvin grin and wave at each other as Meg walks away, disregarding Mrs. Who’s solemn advice that they must stick together. And just like that, there is Meg’s father in front of her. Enraged at this reunion, IT drags Meg, her father, and Calvin down a long, long, long hallway.
Now here comes the part that I found shocking and discordant. Meg’s father starts a tesser to get them back home. But he only wants to save Meg and Calvin. When Meg refuses to leave Charles Wallace, her father basically says it’s too bad they can’t save him, but they have to go. At this point I expected the normal movie/TV trope to kick in: “You’re not really my father. You must be the evil IT masquerading as my father, because my real father would never abandon his child!” But no. It’s really him. This is made worse by the fact that Charles Wallace is adopted and his father hasn’t seen him since he was a baby. I felt like the father gave up on CW pretty quickly, like, “He’s not even my real kid so let’s just leave him behind.”
Then there’s an incomprehensible scene involving a scary forest, and somehow the father and Calvin have both disappeared and nobody notices. CW produces a version of Meg with straight hair and a slinky outfit, and says that if Meg becomes evil like him, all this can be hers. But it clearly is Meg, so I don’t see what the big incentive is. A few hours of salon torture, ditch the plaid shirt, and she’s all set. Anyway, Meg’s love saves him in the end and they triumphantly go back home. I’m still wondering where their father and Calvin are, and also wondering why they’re not wondering.
Luckily, the father and Calvin are waiting for Meg and CW at home. The father apologizes. But that’s it. He’s like, “Oh sorry, I made a mistake. Oh well, it happens. The child that I wanted to abandon to the heart of evil made it back, so it all worked out, nbd.” Charles Wallace doesn’t seem bothered by this.
I did like the mother’s reaction when she sees her missing husband for the first time in four years. I think the normal movie reaction would be to laugh and cry and launch herself at him. But she did what I would do: stood there and stared open-mouthed, unable to form a sentence more coherent than, “What… how… what…”
Still, I think that some of the Camazotz evil rubbed off on the male Dr. Murry, who will use it to subtly terrorize his family in A Wrinkle in Time 2: Evil Lurks Within.