Directed by: Bob Shaye
Starring: Rhiannon, Leigh Wryn, Chris O'Neil, Joely Richardson, Timothy Hutton, Rain Wilson
Robert Shaye (here billed as Bob Shaye) is best known as a producer and studio executive (he founded New Line Cinema). His last directorial effort, Book of Love, was 17 years ago. The Last Mimzy clearly explains the reason behind the gap. Shaye might be a good producer, but as a director he evidences very little feel for the medium. His film adaptation of the 1943 short story “All Mimsy Were the Borogroves” (the title of the story taken from Lewis Carroll’s “Jabberwocky”) by Lewis Padgett (the nom de plume of husband-wife writing team Henry Kuttner and C.L. Moore) is so insubstantial that it seems to be threatening to evaporate right off the screen.
Four credited writers—ranging from the much-vaunted Bruce Joel Rubin (Ghost) to yet another producer moonlighting out of his normal field (I’m detecting a pattern here), Toby Emmerich—haven’t helped matters by moving the story forward in time and trend to turn it into a kind of What the Mimzy Do We Know? affair. I don’t immediately reject the idea of new age sci-fi—in fact, a sequel called Mimzy Vs. Ramtha might work—but it doesn’t really work here. It may have something to do with the fact that the filmmakers don’t seem all that sold on the idea themselves, since the movie’s two proponents of new age-ish philosophy are a dithery elementary school science teacher, Larry White (TV’s The Office), and his even ditzier fiancée, Naomi (Kathryn Hahn, The Holiday). It’s never entirely clear whether these characters are intended to be taken seriously or simply as comic relief.
More, even though the film would like to cash in on the trendy concept of “Indigo children” by association (the term never actually crops up), the whole sci-fi premise of really, really, really advanced teaching toys seems at odds with the idea of Indigo children being the result of a natural progression of humankind. (For mainstream audiences, the discrepancy may be just as well, since not everyone is likely to buy into the “Indigo child” idea.) Regardless, what Shaye and company have ended up with is a thin story stretched out over 94 minutes that still feels incomplete.
In essence, the film is about two kids—Emma (Rhiannon Leigh Wryn, Hulk) and Noah Wilder (newcomer Chris O’Neil)—who find a mysterious box in the surf (yes, the premise does bring to mind Phil Harris’ 1950s novelty song “The Thing”). When it opens itself, it reveals a variety of strange “toys,” including a stuffed bunny that “talks” to Emma and tells her its name is Mimzy. The toys advance the children’s learning at a rapid rate (and no, no large black monolith is involved). It all seems safe enough till they really get going and plunge a large chunk of the Northwest into darkness, which alerts Homeland Security to the fact that something strange is going on. All of this ultimately leads to the revelation of what the toys are really there for and what Emma in particular is supposed to do. (If you miss when she inadvertently does what she’s supposed to do, you haven’t seen many movies.)
There are huge slabs of other movies in here—ranging from the now obligatory workaholic dad (Timothy Hutton) to E.T. reconfigured as a cute stuffed rabbit to Michael Clarke Duncan’s gruff-but-ultimately-sympathetic government agent (think Ving Rhames in Lilo and Stitch (2002)). So much so, that the movie never seems to have its own identity. Even the Roger Waters theme song sounds like something he recycled from outtakes from The Wall album.
Worst of all, though, is the simple fact that the whole enterprise looks like something made for the SciFi Channel—with all the quality that suggests. The sad part is that the movie does have a good message about our increased dehumanization and self-isolationist tendencies. For that, it gets a few points for effort. And it probably will appeal to kids. Rated PG for some thematic elements, mild peril and language.
— reviewed by Ken Hanke