Suppose you were a movie producer and you wanted to produce a thoughtful science fiction movie aimed primarily at children. You also wanted the movie to have a touch of class and for it to be mildly creepy without being scary. The movie should feel a bit like an M. Night Shyamalan movie but not have a budget big enough to hire him. The last criterion is that the movie should probably win approval of the American Family Association. What you would end up with would be the movie now out in theaters, The Last Mimzy.
This is a movie that normally I would never see, nor even rent. Nevertheless, when you are on a business trip in Golden, Colorado, you have the evenings free, there is a mall with a sixteen-cinema multiplex within walking distance and you do not have a whole lot of time to read reviews then this is the sort of movie you pay $9.50 to see on impulse. At 94 minutes, it is also a movie that left plenty of my evening free to do other things.
However, before I review the movie, first a hiss at the obsessive marketing practices at our modern Cineplex. It is no wonder that Netflix recently shipped its billionth rental CD. I happened to see this movie at a Sony Cineplex, but it does not matter. Suffice to say that even if you skipped the candy counter the $9.50 ticket does not begin to cover the real cost of this movie. Instead, if you enter the theater before show time, you will be bombarded with nonstop commercials, some of which are repeated just in case you missed it the first time. To make sure you cannot miss them, the volume is cranked up to near deafening levels, which means whispering to your seatmate is out. Of course, the official start time of the movie means it is time to start watching trailers, which amounts to more advertising. You are a captive audience. Perhaps because The Last Mimzy is a family movie, all the trailers I saw were about another family oriented movies marketed for the preteen crowd.
The movie started just in time because the trailers made me come close to vomiting. If you can hold your stomach, you will get trailers for Spiderman 3 and Underdog, among others. Perhaps worst trailer of all was one for Nancy Drew. It would make the authors who ghostwrote under the name of Carolyn Keene want to take up poultry farming. The humor in these trailers was insulting and sophomoric, but presumably, what movie marketers think this crowd wants. Nonetheless, if I had been a Nancy Drew fan growing up instead of a Hardy Boys fan, this trailer would have me lining up other Nancy Drew fans to form picket lines around theaters.
Back to The Last Mimzy. In the movie two precious child actors, first time child actor Chris O’Neil and six-year-old Rhiannon Leigh Wryn play a brother and sister who are going through the normal sibling rivalry. At a family getaway house, apparently in the Puget Sound they come across an odd container in the water. We learn from the prequel that it is a message from the future to the present. In the future, thanks to pollution, the human race is dwindling. Safe sex? Essentially future humans look like pod people who spend their lives inside of giant latex condoms. No wonder they are obsessed with contacting the past and making things aright.
Unfortunately, previous attempts have failed and this is their last, desperate attempt to rectify the mistakes of the past. Inside the container is a stuffed rabbit along with a number of peculiar rocks and an odd shaped thing called the kids call a generator. The stuffed rabbit (Mimzy) can talk to the girl, and a glass shard inside the container teaches the boy a lot that he did not expect to learn about futuristic structural engineering. They quickly go from precocious to charming yet alarmingly queer kids, anxious to get away from their parents and spend time with their new toys. A science teacher at the Noah’s (the boy’s) school, who also has happened to have studied weird things in Tibet with his fiancé, takes a special interest in Noah after he fills up a notebook full of detailed drawings, which he and his girlfriend match up with ancient Tibetan drawings. Soon the girl, Emma, is spinning rocks in mid air and freaking out their babysitter. It takes much longer for their largely clueless parents to figure out that something truly paranormal is going on.
Fooling around with “the generator”, they manage to take out the power to half of Washington State. This rouses the immediate attention of the Department of Homeland Security. Eventually the genesis of the power outage is traced to their house. DHS, using the Patriot Act, detains the whole family and moves them to a laboratory. Emma’s stuffed rabbit, Mimzy, is dissected. It is determined to be a complex computer far beyond the current capabilities of Silicon Valley. You will be glad to know though that there is Intel inside, written in microns. One has to wonder how much Intel paid for this product placement. (It could not be much more than the Coca Cola Company paid. A can of Sprite is predominantly featured.)
This stuffed rabbit is apparently the last chance of future generations of the human race to live in a toxic free world again. They need some small piece of humanity untainted by genetic mutations as well as wholly innocent in spirit. It will not to spoil anything to tell you that it turns out to be one of Emma’s tears.
Adults like me will likely find the movie semi-saccharine yet not wholly without merit. The characters are all suitably stereotypical and unmemorable. The plot may challenge kids, but will be transparent to adults. The children, while cute do not descend into the wholly annoying phase. What The Last Mimzy amounts to is a decent sci-fi flick for children and pre-teens that will also win the heart of perhaps half of the adults who attend. It is doubtless better than Underdog or any of the other trailers I suffered through to see this movie. The special effects are okay, the directing is competent but not inspired, and the cast of characters small and the budget feels quite modest.
If you are looking for something science fiction-fantasy related that might draw the attention of children eight and up, and will not make you fall asleep, this film will suffice. However, while it might have pretensions of being a M. Night Shayamalan movie, it is not close to being on his tier. It is a solid B of a movie, and ranks 2.7 on my 4.0 scale.
You can do much worse than this movie but you can also wait until the DVD is in the discount rack of your local Blockbuster before seeing it.
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