A telepathic stuffed bunny from the future? Sign me up.
Okay, this is slightly complicated, so bear with me. Ready?
New Line's The Last Mimzy is a sci-fi children's movie about two Seattle siblings who discover a box on the beach full of weird objects that they think are toys. Except the toys aren't so much toys as they are objects from the future that were sent back in time in hopes of finding children that can know what to do with them to save the human race.
And it was based on a short story written in 1943 by science fiction author Lewis Padgett, which was actually the pen name for Henry Kuttner and his wife C. L. Moore. And the story was actually called "Mimsy Were the Borogroves." And yes, that was Mimsy with an "s" and now it is Mimzy with a "z."
Still here? Good.
As the movie progresses, the kids learn more and more from the toys. A sea-shell shaped toy teaches Noah (Chris O'Neil) how to get spiders and bugs to move at his whim, and he starts drawing Buddhist mandalas - figurative representations of the past and the future- which catch the eye of his hippy-ish science teacher played by Rainn Wilson (The Office, Six Feet Under). And Noah's little sister Emma (Rhiannon Leigh Wryn) begins to have telepathic conversations with a stuffed bunny rabbit toy that she names Mimzy.
But thanks to the rigid thought patterns grown-ups have, Noah's and Emma's parents can't see what the kids see in the toys. Still, worried mom Jo (Joely Fisher) and workaholic dad David (Timothy Hutton) can tell that something is up.
The Last Mimzy does an excellent job both making science fiction accessible for a younger audience (i.e., trippy without being scary) while loosening the footing of adult viewers. Sure, the always-at-work dad and mom with the sixth sense that the kids are in trouble aren't exactly new characters, but as far as those weird toys go, you aren't always on such well-trodden ground. You don't know what the toys are, what they are going to teach them to do, why they're important, or what the kids should do with them. And that experience helps underscore in the viewers the sense of mystic possibility and wonder felt by Noah and Emma.
Robert Shaye, head of New Line and the producer responsible for such blockbuster franchises as The Lord of the Rings trilogy and A Nightmare on Elm Street series), decided to get behind the camera on The Last Mimzy. And he did a great job directing little Chris O'Neil and Rhiannon Leigh Wryn (Hulk). Screenwriters Bruce Joel Rubin (Ghost, Deep Impact) and Toby Emmerich (Frequency) did an especially good job with their dialogue; O'Neil and Wryn actually sound like real kids when they're arguing with one another.
I think the most refreshing part of The Last Mimzy for a lot of people will be seeing Rainn Wilson play a character other than The Office's Dwight Schrute. Not that I don't love Dwight, and not that Wilson's character in the movie isn't quirky; as he acknowledged in his interview with Reelz.com, Wilson embraces his inherent inner quirk. It is more that his character, Noah's science teacher Larry Wilson, is a different type of offbeat fellow--the cool, New Age-y teacher you wish taught every class.
Michael Clarke Duncan (The Green Mile, Sin City), on the other hand, is another story. As Nathanial Broadman, the Homeland Security Agent who suspects the Wilder family of being terrorists thanks to a toy-induced city-wide power outage, he is so over the top as to be laughable. There are also brief sequences of the future from which the toys hail with narration that bookend the movie, that broke the otherwise good mood. I suspect they are meant as a nod to the original story's roots, but frankly, they do not work at all.
Overall, I think The Last Mimzy is more mature than your standard kids' movie, for which reason I think I liked it. Regardless, it's pretty decent entertainment for the sci-fi family to enjoy together.