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With all the hoopla still radiating from “The Black Panther” blockbuster success, Disney’s science fiction epic “A Wrinkle in Time,” got off to a healthy start last Friday before quietly settling down to second place with $33 million in total revenues over the weekend, as “Panther” earned $41 million while cruising to an estimated $1 billion world wide. Be that as it may, this is a landmark event, as it is the first time in history that two African American directed films have topped the box office pyramid.

 “Wrinkle” did these substantial numbers in spite of mixed reviews, possibly due to a convoluted plot which merges the intricacies of time travel with the challenges of maneuvering through the social clichés of middle school. It is based on the eponymous novel and winner of the 1962 Newbery Medal, the annual prize for outstanding children’s literature. Its author, Madeline L’Engle, combined her Christian beliefs with her scientific interests for the Young Adult market. The story’s family, originally Caucasian, became bi-racial in the film as a nod to the shifting demographics of the millennium.

The film’s center is Meg Murry (Storm Reid), whose transition into adolescence is compounded by rebellion against adults and her peers, exacerbated by her next-door neighbor and tormentor in chief, Veronica (Rowan Blanchard). Meg’s woes stem from the disappearance of her scientist father (Chris Pine) several years before. Eccentricity runs in the family, as Dad’s attempts (before his departure) to explain his theories on the intricacies of physics are met with derision and laughter by an audience of high ranking governmental figures.  Sharing in Meg’s misery is little brother and pint sized brainiac, Charles Wallace (Deric McCabe), along with their put upon mother Kate (Gugu Mbatha-Raw).

This incomplete family unit is visited by a trinity of spiritual guides or seers, Mrs. Whatsit (Reese Witherspoon), Mrs. Which (Oprah Winfrey), and Mrs. Who (Mindy Kaling), who take the siblings on another worldly expedition of self discovery, and coincidentally, to rescue their father. Accompanying them is Meg’s classmate and suitor, Calvin (Levi Miller).

This confusing plotline is further complicated by such astral, celestial, and interstellar concepts as traveling in the fifth dimension by way of the “tesseract,” a four dimensional cube which facilitates travel through time and space. This transportation “short cut” is the “wrinkle in time’ of the book and movie’s title. It in turn enables these cosmic voyagers to find Dad, who got lost while discovering the planet Camazotz.

Director Ava DuVernay reinforces her reputation as a filmmaker of note, by meshing the $ 100 million budget of this perplexing yarn with the aesthetics and sensibilities of the Disney marketing juggernaut. For girls coming of age, this is a tale of feminist empowerment, as the males in the storyline serve as mere appendages to the female protagonists. “A Wrinkle in Time” makes for a satisfying cinematic experience, abetted by a consultation with a copy of “Physics for Dummies,” before and after the screening.