The trailer for The Last Mimzy was one of those rare concoctions that didn’t tip its hand and spill all its secrets in a two-minute span. What did I know going in to a special sneak preview screening Saturday night? I knew it involved a pair of kids with exceptional abilities. I also knew it involved a mysterious stuffed rabbit that the little girl says teaches her things. I also knew that it was directed by Robert Shaye, whose day job is running New Line Studios and starting wars of words against Peter Jackson when he can find the time. None of these bits of trivia told me anything about what The Last Mimzy was really all about, but I have to say I kind of like it like that.
Based on the short story called “Mimzy Were the Borogoves” by Lewis Padgett, the movie is about two kids named Emma and Noah (Rhiannon Leigh Wryn and Chris O’Neil). While at their beach house one Easter break, the kids discover a box in the sand that contains several bizarre artefacts and one stuffed bunny that tells Emma that its name is Mimzy. Emma discovers stones that she can make spin, causing them to create a weird energy field. Noah learns how to manipulate spiders and direct them to create designer webs. The kids bring together two of the artefacts, which causes an energy discharge that blacks out half the state. Between freaked out parents and even more freaked out Homeland Security flacks, the kids have to use all their ingenuity to help Mimzy achieve her mission and return home.
I really liked this movie and I found it to be in keeping with the spirit of E.T. and not just because it was about some kids that help an alien life form (maybe) and outsmart reactionist government officials. The kids are good too. Chris O’Neil plays a typically detached modern boy with video game in hand, but his loyalty to, and love for, his little sister is unquestioning and unwavering. Speaking of which, little Rhiannon Wryn is adorable—part Gertie and part Elliot, she wholeheartedly believes that Mimzy’s on a mission and convincingly plays to the wonder of the story. Two other actors worth highlighting are regular TV players Rainn Wilson from The Office, and Kathyrn Hahn of Crossing Jordan, playing a hippy-ish couple that helps the kids unravel the keys to their quest.
On the other side of the equation are Timothy Hutton and Joely Richardson as the kids’ parents. Hutton is actually pretty okay as the dad, although he stereotypically works such long hours away from home that he could probably be charged with neglect. Richardson meanwhile finds new levels of hysterics playing the nerve-rattled mother. Eventually I just chalked up her freak out to the fact the she comes to the realization that she’s a poor mother. Seriously, her daughter starts carrying a stuffed rabbit of unknown origin around with her everywhere she goes and you don’t even ask about it? Your kids have become obsessed with a mysterious device that can black out half a state and your immediate impulse is to take to the trash can? Where’s child services when you need them?
At the heart of Mimzy is a quasi-environmental message about how we’re killing ourselves with pollution, that I thought was a little ham-fisted, but the script had its heart in the right place at least. It’s a fun kind of adventure that should appeal to the kids without scaring them terribly and it’s got some timely lessons about the pratfalls of overzealousness in the homeland security sector. The Last Mimzy is a quality fairytale about how big things come in small packages, dressed in a sci-fi package behind the felt of a stuffed bunny. Not sure what I mean? Then I’ve successfully not spoiled the movie for you either.