The Last Mimzy
|Michael Clarke Duncan||Nathaniel Broadman|
|Rainn Wilson||Mr. White|
|Rhiannon Leigh Wryn||Emma|
|Directed by||Bob Shaye|
?`Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
Did gyre and gimble in the wabe:
All mimsy were the borogoves,
And the mome raths outgrabe.?
Lewis Carroll, The Jabberwocky, 1872
The Last Mimzy is that phenomenon as welcome as the first robin of spring, a kids? movie that is more than bearable for adults.
The movie is based on a 1943 short story, ?All Mimsy Were the Borogroves?, by sci-fi writer Lewis Padgett. That title comes from a line in the most famous nonsense poem in the English language, Lewis Carroll?s The Jabberwocky. The movie begins and ends with a blissed-out schoolteacher (Irene Snow) and her class of adorable pan-ethnic children in a flower-strewn meadow. Settle down, she tells them, and I?ll tell you a story.
The story opens with a scientist (Tom Heaton) somewhere in the distant future working feverishly to find a way to save the world. He manages some pretty nifty special effects, but it is obvious that the situation is getting desperate. His only chance seems to be to find a way to send some sort of gizmo back in time to gather the elements for the cure of the world?s illness before it gets too far out of hand.
Meanwhile, back in the 21st century, the Wilder family is getting ready to go to their summer cottage. At the last minute dad David (Timothy Hutton) has a work crisis dumped in his lap, so mom Jo (Joely Richardson) and the kids head up to the lake house without him.
The kids are 10-year-old Noah (Chris O?Neill) and his little sister Emma (Rhiannon Leigh Wryn). They seem like pretty normal kids, but when they find a strange box in the bay, that all changes. The box has no visible way in, but in the children?s hands it suddenly whirs and shudders open, revealing a treasure trove of goodies. There are little shiny black rocks, there is a small panel of green glass, there are various other indescribable shapes. And there is a worn, comfortable-looking stuffed bunny reminiscent of the Velveteen Rabbit.
The kids don?t know what to make of this, but they know enough to keep the box and its treasures a secret from their parents. But adults don?t understand anything anyway ? when Mom does discover the green glass thingy, she remarks that it will make a nice paperweight.
Soon the objects from the box begin to reveal their incredible powers. The little black rocks can be spun in midair, and when thus engaged they produce a spherical electrical field that is capable of some crazy stuff. The green glass panel refracts and restructures the visible world, and imparts staggering mental and intuitive gifts to Noah. Most wonderful of all, the stuffed rabbit can communicate, in strange electronic sounds intelligible only to little Emma. The rabbit?s name, she confides, is Mimzy.
The change in Noah is startling. He begins doodling mandalas ? thousand-year-old Tibetan patterns representing the universe ? in his notebooks, to the consternation of his teacher, Mr. White (Rainn Wilson of tv?s The Office). Where earlier Noah had despaired of coming up with a project for his school science fair, he now devises a computer program that can use electronic frequencies to affect the way spiders spin their webs.
Mr. Wilson and his girlfriend Naomi (Kathryn Hahn) recognize that there is something extraordinary going on. After a while, Mom begins to cop on. Dad, a workaholic but kindly doofus, is the last to get the message. He thinks they?re just bright kids.
You can?t keep this kind of thing quiet for long. Noah, fooling around with the box?s treasures, produces a power surge that causes a citywide blackout. Homeland Security is called in, and under the direction of its area director, Nathaniel Broadman (Michael Clarke Duncan), the locus of the problem is traced to the Wilder house. The Feds swoop in like the guys in E.T., and the end game is on.
Will the universe be saved? I?ll never tell. But there?s some lively storytelling involved in delivering the answer. Both kids are played well, and though Hutton is about as present as an actor as his character is as a dad, Richardson brings some nice anxiety to her role. The best work from the adults comes from Wilson and Hahn, who provide the comic relief without running it into the ground.
The direction is in the hands of Bob Shaye, the founder and CEO of New Line Cinema, moonlighting in his first appearance in the director?s chair in fifteen years. Shaye handles the material well, keeping things lively and visually entertaining, and not condescending to the kiddy-ness of it all. The schoolteacher-in-the-meadow prologue and epilogue material could profitably have been jettisoned, but they don?t do any serious damage. Most kids probably won?t care too much about the spiritualism and environmental warnings, and they probably won?t follow the mission of the futuristic scientist?s care package to the past any better than I did, but they?ll still have a whale of a time.
© Text 2007 Jonathan Richards - Filmfreak.be