In the future, we will sit around in fields full of wildflowers, wearing see through Crocs. That is, if “The Last Mimzy” can save the world.
Directed by Bob Shaye (the top head of New Line Cinema) and co-written by Bruce Joel Rubin (“Ghost”) and Toby Emmerich (brother of the President of New Line Cinema, who reports to Bob Shaye), “The Last Mimzy” is a strange film. Many things about it are interesting and good, many things are not.
Noah (Chris O’Neil) and his younger sister, Emma (Rhiannon Leigh Wryn) travel with their mother (Joely Richardson) to the family’s cabin on an island in Puget Sound. It is spring break and the kids are anxious to get away, play on the beach, and have fun. Dad (Timothy Hutton) has to stay behind for a few days to deal with a big case at his law firm. The first day there, Chris grabs his boogie board and wet suit and attempts to brave the cold water. But the kids notice a large box shape floating in the water. They retrieve it and quickly realize the box is covered with strange markings. It opens, revealing some strange items; rocks, a seashell with strange deposits, a stuffed rabbit and more. Emma realizes she can make the rocks float and once they are floating, they form a sort of strange force field. The rabbit also starts talking to her, telling her what she needs to do. As they start to uncover the mysteries of the items, Noah’s science teacher, Mr. White (Rainn Wilson, TV’s “The Office”), realizes some of Noah’s old drawings resemble 12th Century Tibetan mandahlas. Before too long, the local director of Homeland Security, Mr. Broadman (Michael Clark Duncan) becomes interested in this small Seattle family.
One of the good things about this film is the two child actors. Given they are in virtually every scene of the film, it is amazing they are as watch able as they are. I would expect them to be very precocious and sickening, but they are very real and believable. Noah is not very talkative at home and simply ignores his dad when he learns he will miss part of their spring break. He loses himself in his video games and fights with his sister. His sister naturally idolizes her older brother, despite his attitude towards her. Yet, as soon as they arrive at the family cabin, on the lake, they are best friends and running happily into the surf. When the problems mount, they work together to solve the mystery and make sure everything happens. Emma is also good. She plays the violin and states she doesn’t have many friends, because they think she is too weird and too smart. This is a very real reaction at this age and makes her seem real. When the two begin learning the secrets of “The Last Mimzy”, they uncover elements with the natural curiosity of a child. Both Chris Wilder and Rhiannon Leigh Wrynn are remarkably good, even more so given they are in virtually every scene of the film.
Rainn Wilson is good as Mr. White, Noah’s slightly hippy-ish science teacher. He seems like the type of guy you would want to have as a teacher. Interesting, fun, intelligent. He knows what he is talking about and isn’t afraid to get involved in the kids lives. There is a scene in which Mr. White and his fiancée (Kathryn Hahn) stop by to talk to Noah’s mom (Richardson). They are very respectful and tread carefully with the information they have. This is also very believable and helps to show how much these two characters are in tune with one another. Throughout, this couple has an amusing exchange about dreams, providing a few laughs throughout.
Timothy Hutton and Joely Richardson are also good as the parents of Emma and Noah. Throughout, they seem to react in natural, believable ways to the situations their children encounter. They are scared, supportive, amazed at various points throughout.
The big problem in “The Last Mimzy” is in the filmmaking. Director Bob Shaye has crafted an interesting film, but it seems low budget, despite the use of some interesting special effects. All of the action takes place at a small handful of locations, most of which are confined and sparsely populated. It is convenient that a significant portion of the film takes place at a family cabin, they don’t have to interact with a lot of other people, which would mean hiring extras to fill the surroundings. Extras cost money. During the vacation, Noah and his dad go to a driving range, yet this is only about a quarter full. Aren’t there other people on this island? Even when the kids are at school, we never see anything other than Noah’s classroom. During a science fair, there are approximately thirty people in attendance.
The special effects are good, but they are small, emanating from small objects or areas. The larger the special effects, the more costly. Because they are small, they can contain the costs.
All of these elements point to a film under strict budget control. That, and the fact the actors are not name actors, mean this film probably didn’t cost a lot of money.
Saving money, in and of itself, doesn’t make this film a bad effort, but the plot holes are another matter and detract more significantly from the story. At one point, Broadman, turns to the parents and says “I’m sorry. Is there anything I can do for you?” When the parents respond “No”, he let’s them go. I’m sorry, but given what he just saw, this would never happen. At the very least, he would haul the family in for observation and ask more questions. Trust me, this is a huge plot hole. It is almost as though the film ran out of money and needed to tie up the plot, no matter how sloppily, or loosely.
When the reason for “The Last Mimzy” is revealed, it seems a bit New Age-y, a bit trippy. That, and the scenes of people sitting amongst wild flowers wearing orange and red kaftans, makes me think perhaps Rubin and Emmerich were writing this screenplay as they came down from a pot induced high. I can imagine people smoking a joint and going to this film and really tripping on the story and the visuals. I probably just sold some tickets.
But for people who are watching this film fully cognizant of their senses, it will seem a bit outlandish and unbelievable.
“The last Mimzy” is an unusual, interesting film with two very good performances by child actors, with a good, but far too simplistic message and the film seems more appropriate for the Disney Channel.