Ava DuVernay’s A Wrinkle in Time has one big heart. Maybe at times, its heart is a bit too big? Adapted the widely read Madeleine L’Engle novel that’s a staple of children’s literature is quite the feat for DuVernay and screenwriter Jennifer Lee. This pass at the material focuses on the larger character themes rather than the sometimes science-heavy subject matter of the source material. While gorgeously made, at times A Wrinkle In Time doesn’t quite live up to its full potential.

L’Engle’s story follows troubled tween Meg Murry (Storm Reid) and her little brother, whiz kid Charles Wallace (Deric McCabe) whose astrophysicist father Alex Murry (Chris Pine) has been missing for five years. Before he went missing Mr. Murray was on the brink of a theoretical breakthrough- the concept of a tesseract: a way of folding space and time to travel great distances at the blink of an eye. The means of creating said tesseract are glossed over since a tween-aimed science-fantasy film is hardly the setting for theoretical physics. – but more on that later. Having spent years without her father a frustrated Meg is having a harder of a time than ever navigating her life at school and at home with her mother played by Gugu Mbatha-Raw.

Things change when Mrs. Whatsit arrives at their doorstep. Reese Witherspoon plays the ever-so perky role as if Elle Woods showed up at an audition for Wicked. Joined by two other astral-travelers – Mrs. Which (Oprah Winfrey) and Mrs. Who (Mindy Kaling) – the women tell Meg and Charles Wallace that tesseracts do in fact exist and by means of one, their father is stranded on a distant planet. So begins a quest led by the two Murray’s and the dreamy-eyed Calvin (Levi Miller) – Meg’s schoolmate who tags along.

One of the glaring faults of Lee’s script lies in the vague specifics of what’s going on. Lingering questions like what’s the deal with this crazy planet that Mr. Murry discovered, and how does this so-called tesseract work, pervade the movie. All of these questions could be addressed in a brief line or two, but the movie more or less goes with the flow in regards to its story. It almost feels as though the filmmakers don’t trust the audience to grasp the high concept science or they just wanted to focus on the fantastic visuals to telegraph the spectacular environments of the story. Readers of the book will no doubt be frustrated with how much is glossed over. Needless to say, there’s a lot going on in this story that’s left unsaid.

It’s hard not to fault DuVernay’s film for its big heart. Themes, like fitting in, being yourself, and accepting your faults, are a constant throughout – all of which are important lessons to see in a children’s movie. Also, the diversity of the cast is one of the film’s strengths. However, at times, the whole movie comes across like a new age self-help novel for kids – Winfrey’s line delivery verges on a “very special episode of Super Soul Sunday” by way of Disney. Perhaps material like A Wrinkle in Time is too ambitious for its own good. A film advocating the idea of embracing your true self, with a bi-racial female lead is groundbreaking. Reid is a delight to watch on film. Yet dumbing-down the heavy science (most of which is based on real theoretical physics) in favor of brisk pacing feels like a letdown. The visuals are indeed spectacular, as are the costumes by Paco Delgado. But are set pieces and costume enough for this thoughtful story?

The only other pass at the book to film was a 2003 TV movie, which didn’t go over so well with either the author or die-hard fans of the book. At its core, A Wrinkle in Time is fine family entertainment that looks great, but those wanting a more nuanced adaptation for older kids may be left feeling disappointed.