A mysterious, alien artefact known as Mimzy travels across time to reach Earth kids, Noah (Chris O’Neil) and Emma Wilder (Rhiannon Leigh Wryn). Transforming itself into a cuddly bunny, Mimzy delights the children with strange toys and forms a telepathic bond with Emma. She finds herself developing superpowers, able to fly, teleport objects and open portals into another dimension, while Noah becomes a science whiz able to build amazing things Mimzy shows him in dreams. This disturbs their parents, David (Timothy Hutton) and Jo (Joely Richardson), but schoolteacher Larry White (Rainn Wilson), who somehow shares those dreams, and his New Age philosophizing fiancee, Naomi (Kathryn Hahn) come to believe child prodigy Emma has a special destiny. When the kids’ latest experiment accidentally causes a national blackout, FBI Director Nathaniel Broadman (Michael Clarke Duncan) hauls the family in as terror suspects. The government tries to solve the mystery of why Mimzy came here.
The Last Mimzy is another little gem in the recent spate of quality kids’ movies. Based on “Mimsy Were The Borogroves”, a short story by Lewis Padgett (a pseudonym for husband and wife team: Henry Kutner and C.L. Moore), this was a pet project for Bob Shaye, co-founder of New Line Cinema, and one of only two films he has directed. Allusions to Lewis Carroll abound, from the use of fractal mathematics, doorways to other worlds, and Emma’s intriguing discovery that the real life Alice had her very own Mimzy. Genre fans might spot parallels with John Wyndham’s Chocky series, while the alien’s use of coded messages in dreams recalls Explorers (1985), and its psychic bond, gradual weakening and escape from authorities evoke E.T. the Extraterrestrial (1982).
It lacks E.T.’s emotional punch, but proves more cerebral. Beyond gee-whiz effects there are genuine, science fiction ideas as the children tune into strange frequencies that allow them to communicate with flowers, insects and sea creatures, and come to see the world in abstract mathematical shapes. Beautifully put together, the film features radiant cinematography, inventive child’s eye-level camerawork, and eye-catching special effects that exude more warmth and creativity than many grownup science fiction movies.
Shaye bookends the movie with futuristic scenes that lend an epic sweep. It opens with a schoolteacher telling the story of a world, seemingly, beset by alien invaders, as the elders send Mimzy back in time. A climactic twist flips everything on its head, cleverly enhances the danger, and casts Emma as an even greater child saviour who births a utopia where children can fly and the world is all green fields and rainbow flowers. Precocious poppet Rhiannon Leigh Wryn flits impressively from lovable to spooky as the scene dictates. When she declares, with the sincerity of an innocent child, “I love the world. I don’t want it to die”, you really believe her. Also watch for the moment she freaks out the babysitter by opening a portal to another dimension.
The screenplay by Toby Emmerich and Bruce Joel Rubin (who scripted Ghost (1990)) shows an understanding of sibling relationships and crafts a metaphor for the transition from childhood to adolescence, but slackens towards the latter stages. Prior to the awesome coda, Shaye struggles to assemble a suitably dramatic climax. In a pleasant change, the grownups are neither idiots, nor neglectful parents. Timothy Hutton plays a caring, supportive dad from the get-go, and Rainn Wilson’s hip schoolteacher wows his kids with lessons on DNA, pollution and the environment, and encourages them to go out and make a difference. However, Michael Clarke Duncan’s anti-terrorist expert is weakly written. While not an out-and-out villain, his actions are too extreme to be excused with a simple apology. And isn’t it scary how the American government goes all-guns-blazing just to nab a couple of little kids?
These criticisms aside, The Last Mimzy comes highly recommended. It’s also the only kids’ film to close with a creepy song by Pink Floyd’s Roger Waters. Cool.