Walking out of The Last Mimzy I felt indescribably sad. It took me a second to figure out why – after all, the movie didn’t end on a sad note, and even if it did, the film is so incapable of eliciting any emotional response beyond annoyance that I couldn’t imagine it would make me sad. Then I realized what it was – it was the fact that the kids walking out of the theater with me would, in fifteen years, be defending this film on whatever form internet message boards have taken. People do this now with The Goonies, a not very good at all movie that is even worse when viewed as an adult, and The Last Mimzy makes The Goonies look like a masterpiece.
The Last Mimzy, directed by New Line head honcho Bob Shaye, is very obviously aiming square at the ET target, which wouldn’t be bad if Shaye had a clue what made ET work. In The Last Mimzy, which is somewhat based on a 1940s science fiction story, two Seattle children – a boy and his younger sister – find a box on the beach. The box is filled with strange toys, like rocks that, when spun, hang in the air, and a rabbit doll named Mimzy that speaks to the girl. When one of the toys causes a massive blackout, Homeland Security gets involved, thinking there’s a terrorist threat to Seattle. The truth is that these toys were sent from the future, which turns out to be a fucked up place that is completely in soft focus, and that they have a mission to accomplish that can save humanity.
The biggest mistake that Shaye makes is that he leaves no room for awe. ET is filled with moments of awe, and those are the scenes that stick with you, like Elliot flying across the face of the moon. Shaye just keeps the movie moving at too fast a pace, cutting every shot as short as he can, ending every scene at the earliest possible moment. We barrel through the story, which is ironic, as while Mimzy is apparently on a schedule (she starts ‘dying’ or some shit – again, it’s just the ET blueprint re-used. That’s the whole reason Homeland Security gets involved – ‘Hey, the government showed up at the end of ET, let’s do the same here! Peter Coyote’s busy? Get Michael Clark Duncan!’) she really takes her time getting her mission going. The kids just futz around with the toys and, for reasons that never make actual narrative sense, begin exhibiting heightened powers and intelligence. The element of the ticking clock is introduced right at the end, but you have to wonder why Mimzy just hung around, when everything she needed to have the kids do what they have to do in the final reel is hanging around the whole time.
The changes in the kids make no narrative sense, but they make a whole bunch of New Age sense, and The Last Mimzy is a totally New Age film. Tibetan mandalas play a vital, but unexplained, role in the film. The movie starts off with a critique of our current culture, which is all about isolating ourselves via electronics (an epidemic Bob Shaye contributes to by producing content that is consumed electronically) and then moves into the mandalas and the evolution of human consciousness. At times I felt like I was watching a kid’s movie as envisioned by Terence McKenna.
Another huge problem with the film is that the entire second act is extraneous. Mimzy arrives in the box, along with every single item needed to save the future. Mimzy immediately begins talking to the little girl, and both she and the boy start having dreams that go hand in hand with their heightened abilities. The boy can speak to spiders through harmonics; later he has dreams that show him how a space bridge can be built using certain techniques and I am guessing nanotechnology or something. He wins the science fair by instructing spiders to create a mini-model of that bridge. This never goes anywhere, just like the scene where the girl tells her brother that she needs his help, as he’s her engineer. They don’t build anything, though, and all of that stuff disappears from the film. I honestly wonder if someone forgot to add the epilogue where we find out these kids invented the space bridge, because otherwise all of this stuff is just second act padding. To be fair they use some of these abilities at the end of the film to get away from the government baddies (who aren’t that bad after all), but it feels like it was thrown in at the last minute, especially a scene where the boy has cockroaches climb all over and obstruct A camera in the secret lab where they’re being held. Note to Homeland Security: invest in more cameras.
The film is also padded with adult characters – the father of the kids, played a distressingly old looking Timothy Hutton, works long hours at his job… until he takes a leave of absence and it’s all okay with his bosses. Drama, effectively avoided. Joely Richardson plays the hysterical mother of the kids who, after seeing her daughter float in the air Linda Blair style (for no reason that applies to the film’s plot, of course) gets rid of these strange toys… by throwing them in the garbage behind the house. My mom did a better job of getting rid of my porno stash when she found it. Rainn Wilson plays the boy’s science teacher who gets mixed up in the whole thing through strange dreams he has, and discovers that his role in the universe is to… give the kids a ride. And then of course there’s the government goons, who only exist to make the third act exist (and to explain some of the scientific aspects of the toys).
It’s hard for me to dislike The Last Mimzy this much (although doesn’t that awful title make it easier?) because there is a good story inside this film. The basic concept of the toys from the future is cool, and I like how the movie uses real-seeming future tech instead of completely fakey nonsense. But it feels like the story for the movie was never properly broken, and the writers couldn’t figure out what was to keep the kids from assembling the device Mimzy needs and providing her with the one special thing she’s looking for (I’ll keep that unspoiled, but you’ll figure it out in act one) – in other words they couldn’t figure out what made this more than a short story. In the hands of a better director, one who could evoke childhood wonder and awe, that might have been forgivable, but as it exists The Last Mimzy is a slightly too confusing for the kids and far too boring for the adults mess.