While it presents some fantastic ideas and includes enough larger-than-life elements to entertain any kid on a rainy afternoon, The Last Mimzy ultimately leaves your mind feeling like your stomach does twenty minutes after scarfing down a giant helping of Chinese food -- empty, confused and a tad bit guilty. Based on Lewis Padgett's short story, Mimsy were the Borogoves, The Last Mimzy marks Bob Shaye's (New Line's founder, co-CEO and co-chairman) triumphant return to the director's chair after 17 long years. But, unlike the campy Book of Love, Mimzy provided Shaye with more complex material and universal themes that, if pulled off properly, would leave the audience hanging onto the edge of their seats, rooting for two ordinary kids faced with an extraordinary task: to save the world. Sadly, the only thing I was hanging onto was a small piece of the armrest I shared with the little kid who fell asleep next to me.
Noah (Chris O'Neil) and Emma (Rhiannon Leigh Wryn) aren't superheroes or crime-fighting vigilantes; they're your average brother and sister out looking for a little fun as the family -- complete with mom and dad (as played by Joely Richardson and Timothy Hutton) -- arrives at their isolated summer home with a generous portion of rest and relaxation on the agenda. When a clunky black box washes up on shore, the two are immediately intrigued by the mysterious symbols etched into its side. What is this? Where did it come from? And why are there black rocks, a sea shell and a stuffed bunny rabbit inside? It doesn't take long for the kids to figure out that the contents of this box, while unusual, provide those in its possession with strange physical and mental powers. So, naturally, they do what any young kid would do upon discovering a priceless artifact -- hide it from mom and dad.
Unfortunately for Noah and Emma, it soon becomes impossible to hide their "little secret," as a pesky new-agey science teacher (Rainn Wilson) and his Buddhist wife begin to sense something is up when Noah suddenly starts excelling in class -- drawing intricate ancient symbols out of thin air -- while somehow finding a way to communicate with spiders using a certain frequency. At the same time, Emma realizes that her bunny rabbit -- whose name is Mimzy -- is trying to talk to her and warn her of an impending doom. Not only that, but she can also float and spin rocks through the air. It's all pretty wild stuff, and the set-up is very inviting, but the story refuses to take off. These special powers never connect with one another, nor do they make a lot of sense within the context of the story.
We later find out that the doll, Mimzy, has been sent back in time on several occasions, landing in the laps of different girls who were never able to understand Mimzy's reason for being there. Through its conversations with Emma, she realizes that this is Mimzy's last journey -- that the planet is in danger -- and it's up to Emma and Noah to do something. Of course, it takes awhile to get to that point -- there are several scenes in which mom and dad refuse to accept that their children are into some odd things. Since the science teacher thinks that the bizarre dreams he's been having as of late -- in which winning lottery numbers magically appear in his head -- have something do with all of this, he remains in the picture; trying to convince Noah and Emma's parents that something special and unusual is taking place in their household.
Though the film's themes revolve around communicating and connecting with our planet and those who live amongst us (especially our families), its structure and plot points do the opposite. What does Noah's spider magic have to do with the science teacher's lottery-filled dreams? And how do Emma's special powers fit into the equation? Why are the spinning rocks so important? Great, she floats! But why? Eventually, the kids inadvertently cause a citywide power outage; one that immediately draws attention from Homeland Security and a very bland, poorly-written character played by Michael Clarke Duncan, who heads up a mission to locate the source and determine whether it was an act of terrorism. Without giving away the rest, let's just say you'll most likely compare it to the ending of a very popular Steven Spielberg flick; one that involved an extra-terrestrial seeking help from a young human boy.
That said, The Last Mimzy is far from a bad film. Shayes has been around the block several times; he knows what looks good, and he knows how to get the most out of his actors. O'Neil and Wryn are especially enjoyable as Noah and Emma; both kids are very comfortable in front of the camera, and it shows. The same goes for Rainn Wilson; here, he shows us he's fully capable of deviating from his Office antics and showering the big screen with a quirky, somewhat dramatic performance that's not only convincing, but a lot of fun to watch. However, apart from those three, the rest of the cast made it seem as if they were shooting Mimzy while on a lunch break from another, more important film. As the two parents, Richardson and Hutton are silly caricatures of the worried, out-of-the-loop mom and dad that we've seen countless times before. And if Clarke Duncan is supposed to represent our hero's greatest obstacle, then he (and the script) fails to accurately project that on screen.
For a kids fantasy flick, The Last Mimzy has a lot of grown-up ideas -- some of which will most likely soar over the heads of any child under the age of 10. And, with the exception of a few watered-down visual effects (which become a bit old after they're repeated for the fourth and fifth time), Mimzy doesn't sparkle, shine and blow our minds the way some of the more recent fantasy flicks have done. But, it comes packed with an important message and introduces a lot of ideas about our planet, our environment and the roles we, as humans, play -- stuff any parent and child could have fun discussing long after the credits roll. If a film can have that sort of affect on a family, regardless of whether it nailed all its plot points, then, in my mind, it was well worth the price of an admission ticket.