Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Clyde’s Movie Palace: The Last Mimzy (2007)



Chris O’Neil
Rhiannon Leigh Wryn
Joely Richardson
Timothy Hutton
Rainn Wilson
Kathryn Hahn
Michael Clarke Duncan

Directed by
Robert Shaye

“A long time ago the soul of our planet was sick. People had become isolated and warlike. Our world was frightened. It was dying. But a great scientist was trying to save us. He had tried many times and could only try once more. This was The Last Mimzy.” - Opening Scene from The Last Mimzy.

And thus begins a film that when I first heard the title, it  seemed to be a movie that would hold little if any appeal for me. I mean, what the hell is a Mimzy anyway? The title certainly wasn’t one that would entice anybody to rush down to the multiplex to catch it on the big screen and I only put it in my Netflix queue as sort of an afterthought. I generally will put all the major films that are released into my Netflix queue automatically. Eventually when I get around to shuffling the films around some of them will stay and some of them won’t. As a matter of fact, The Last Mimzy was one of those that went, and went fast.

(Clyde note: These days I very seldom get new releases from Netflix. That’s why God made the Redbox. New releases at Netflix end up sitting in your queue for about six weeks)

And then one day I read the following review: 3 out of 5, it was cute & fun.

Yeah, I know, not exactly a rave recommendation but you have to know that this particular person is a real hard ass in giving out movie praise. Believe me, that’s almost a rave review coming from her. So I quickly shoved it back into my queue and transported it up to the top right behind Bobby and American Pastime which have been on very long wait for me since forever. Do you hear that Netflix? But the question still remained, what in the hell is a Mimzy?

I was soon to find out. We are quickly introduced to the Cleaver family. For our review purposes this edition of the Cleaver family is called The Wilders. First, there’s June…er I mean Jo Wilder (Joely Richardson), there’s papa bear David (Timothy Hutton), and then the two kids Wally and the Beav otherwise known as Noah (Chris O’Neil) and Emma (Rhiannon Leigh Wryn). Obviously going in we know that the film is going to center around the two kids. What can often make or break a film like this is whether or not the youngsters are portrayed as overly precocious annoying brats and know it all's, or if they are portrayed as kids you wouldn’t hesitate to run out and want to adopt as soon as the credits are rolling. So what is the verdict on Noah and Emma? I signed the adoption papers last night.

It’s not that this family isn’t without their problems. David is always tied up with his job, and is constantly having to cut out of family commitments. Obviously there’s the usual message here about family being more important in our lives than anything else but thankfully you aren’t hammered over the head with it in every frame. As a matter of fact, despite the dad’s work problems, the family for the most part has their act together.

That is they do until one day on the beach the two kids find a mysterious shaped case with cryptic symbols that produces all kinds of goodies such as….well there’s….there’s some kind of a thingamabob and a few thingamajigs. And that evening, when Emma awakens from her sleep, she gets out the mysterious case which instantly produces a stuffed rabbit. And although the rabbits name isn’t Bugs or Harvey, it talks quite clearly to Emma.

Noah and his parents can’t hear it and all we hear is a cooing type sound when it speaks. But the strange thing is, it is almost as if we understand that cooing sound as well as Emma does although it is hinted that the rabbit may be communicating with her through telepathy. And it is at this point that the rabbit tells Emma that her name is Mimzy. And so now you know what a Mimzy is. But why is this Mimzy thingamdoohichie here and what does it want? Uh...that's why you are suppose to watch the movie.

Okay, I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking it all sounds way too cute, syrupy and silly and strictly for kids between the ages of four and six. But you would be wrong on that score. We soon find out that the other things that were in the case have their own kind of magic. There are some rocks that Emma can spin like a top and when she does they create one heckuva cool light and laser show. A glowing flat monolith also begins to have it’s affect on Noah making him smarter and faster without ever having one single bionic implant put in him.

It would have been very easy at this point for director Robert Shay to give into temptation and either turn Mimzy into a big special effects extravaganza to razzle dazzle some more buttocks into the theater seats, or he could have the kids doing the usual goofy stuff we’ve seen a million times over such as getting revenge on the school bully, becoming the star athlete at school, or using the powers to win over the head of the cheerleading squad. But Shay and writers Bruce Joel Rubin and Toby Emmerich never fall into that trap, unwilling to let The Last Mimzy become the 21st Century version of The Computer Wore Tennis Shoes or The World’s Greatest Athlete. We are on a journey of discovery along with Noah and Emma, and it is to everybody’s credit that this film never talks down to the audience regardless of what age you may be. The opening scene of Mimzy lifts our curiosity up, and it never lets go until the last few touching moments when we find out exactly what The Last Mimzy really was and why he/she/it paid Noah and Emma a visit.

When the kids do show the powers they have achieved, it is almost incidental. For Emma, spinning rocks that make lights is nothing more than a magic show by her way of thinking, so much so that she even shows the babysitter her "trick". When Noah begins to suddenly overachieve at school, he does it not to show off or to get one up on the teacher. He does it because he can and he doesn’t really seem to realize that he has suddenly been given an extraordinary gift.

Another thing I really liked about Mimzy was the fact that the parents aren’t here as either a punch line for the kids, nor are they here as fodder for the kids to keep putting something over on them. It is obvious that despite the father’s absences, this is a very close knit and loving family. It’s something you don’t see too often in films these days.

All is not totally peaches and cream with the film. Rainn Wilson is on hand as Noah’s science teacher Larry White as is Kathryn Hahn who plays his fiancé Naomi. While they are somewhat necessary to the story line, they have one or two too many unnecessary and odd scenes together that go on way too long and for a few moments slow the pacing of the film down. In fact, it would probably had been better if they had just kept Wilson as Noah’s teacher and axed out the Naomi character altogether. When Wilson is kept busy just being the Science teacher, he does quite well. It’s a minor flaw but it’s one that doesn’t take much away from the overall experience.

Michael Clarke Duncan also shows up later in the film as a homeland security agent. He may seem to be just another character necessary for the plot to move along and may very well be just that. But after watching the film, I think there is another point that Shay was trying to make beyond Duncan just being the usual stereotypical government agent bad guy. In him we see the beginnings of what our society has become and will become in the days ahead if we don’t turn the tide and that at some point we may all be in danger of losing our very soul. What does that have to do with Mimsy? Once you see the film you’ll understand.

I really liked this film. It is a film that was overlooked at the theaters but one might be able to chalk that up to the odd title. I would hope that it would find it’s audience on DVD, especially if you have kids. It’s a film that the whole family can enjoy together and may even want to own. Heck, it’s a film with science, magic, mystery, warmth and love that you can enjoy even if there isn’t a kid within fifty miles of you. I certainly did, and after it was over I felt kind of good inside. And when any film can make me feel like that I have no choice but to give it my grade which for The Last Mimzy is a warm and fuzzy B+.

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