Ever have one of those “What the hell!?!” moments? You know, when you see or hear something that boggles the mind, beggars description and makes you wonder about the sanity of its source--something that just forces you to scream a rhetorical “What the hell!?!” to the heavens above? If you can’t recall the last time you did so, feel free to see The Last Mimzy, and the experience is sure to come flooding back.
The Last Mimzy is loosely based on a short story by Lewis Padgett (a pseudonym of ’40s husband-and-wife writing team Henry Kuttner and C.L. Moore) and directed by New Line Cinema CEO Bob Shaye. Shaye has only crawled out from behind the executive desk once before--to direct the 1990 romcom bomb The Book of Love. Given his now 0-and-2 track record, it seems the man is better suited to shuffling papers, greenlighting Nightmare on Elm Street sequels and insulting Lord of the Rings director Peter Jackson.
Borrowing its entire plot structure from Steven Spielberg’s family classic E.T. The Extraterrestrial, The Last Mimzy strains for cutesy wonderment and lands in the realm of preachy confusion. The story drops us into the lives of brother/sister sibs Noah (unpromising newcomer Chris O’Neil) and Emma Wilder (Rhiannon Leigh Wryn--no Drew Barrymore herself). One weekend, the kids are stationwaggoned out to their beachside summer home in the Pacific Northwest by overprotective mom (Joely Richardson) and overworked dad (Timothy Hutton). There, our moppets discover a mysterious object in the surf. Looking for all the world like a demonic puzzlebox from Hellraiser, the item turns out to be some sort of magical toy box from the future. Inside are several odd technical items and a telepathic stuffed bunny rabbit (the titular Mimzy). Naturally, the kids keep this a secret from their parents--mostly because telling them would have truncated the film by about an hour.
In short order, these strange “toys” bless the kids with a wide variety of techno-mystical, quantum mathematical superpowers. Very young audience members might have fun watching Noah and Emma demonstrate telepathy, teleportation, levitation and the ability to talk to insects. Unfortunately, the kids don’t do much with these sudden superpowers, as they are essentially irrelevant to the plot at hand. Psychokinetic folding of the space/time continuum to move Sprite cans aside, Noah and Emma must race against the clock (and misguided government agents) to get E.T. back home before he dies--sorry, I meant to say they must race against the clock (and misguided government agents) to get Mimzy back home before she dies.
One of the major problems with The Last Mimzy is that it frequently misunderstands the difference between cute and utterly creepy. Little kids listening to the voices in their heads, levitating above their beds and commanding swarms of cockroaches is more appropriate to an Exorcist sequel than a junior grade sci-fi film. A foreboding atmosphere of gloom, doom and impending apocalypse and a sense that fixing all this rests on the shoulders of a couple of upper middle-class prepubescents from Seattle makes The Last Mimzy strangely dark and scary.
Far and away the film’s oddest decision is in pushing some sort of ill-defined New Age agenda. Though never stated explicitly, the film hitches its wagon to the growing trend toward identifying “indigo children.” This pseudo-scientificamystical belief states that your stupid/slow/troublemaking/misbehaving child isn’t stupid/slow/troublemaking/misbehaving, but is in fact blessed by space aliens/time travelers/Atlanteans/whatever with superhuman powers which will eventually be utilized to save all of mankind. That temper tantrum your son threw in the Wal-Mart checkout aisle last week? That wasn’t a tantrum, that was a sincere attempt at communication by a highly advanced civilization which the cashier simply wasn’t evolved enough to comprehend.
With their magically evolved superhuman powers and the assistance of their wacky Buddhist science teacher (played by a seriously out-of-place Rainn Wilson of “The Office”), our pint-sized heroes are prevailed upon to save planet Earth from ecological and biological collapse. How? Well, that’s the weird part. Instead of cleaning up the environment, going vegan, ending war--all of which are more-or-less espoused by the film--the kids simply have to figure out how to send Mimzy back to the future. It’s a task that would have been infinitely easier if her creators had bothered to, say, stick a brief set of instructions into the toy box.
Alternately pretentious and preposterous enough to be a M. Knight Shyamalan movie, The Last Mimzy is among the most wildly misguided children’s films ever conceived. Apparently, the filmmakers thought all third graders are obsessed with J.Z. Knight, Tibetan mandalas, quantum mathematics, time travel, palm reading, space aliens, crystal healing and the Green Party. Of course, if you’re the proud parent of an 8-year-old who absolutely loved What the Bleep Do We Know!?, then by all means pack up the tofu snacks and enjoy.