You know that feeling of overwhelming confusion that rushes over you when viewing a piece of art or entertainment that's trying too hard to be complex? Get ready to feel that a lot watching "The Last Mimzy."
When a mysterious box is uncovered by Noah (Chris O'Neal) and his younger sister Emma (Rhiannon Leigh Wryn), the two children unlock it to find strange machinery and a stuffed bunny named Mimzy. Soon, the contents of the box bestow the kids with special powers of intelligence, yet the purpose of the items still eludes them. Finding their teachers afraid (Rainn Wilson), parents (Timothy Hutton and Joely Richardson) unable to help, and government agents (led by Michael Clark Duncan) looking to destroy Mimzy, Noah and Emma search for their own answers on why Mimzy was sent to Earth.
There's a smorgasbord of ideas dancing around "The Last Mimzy," but Bob Shaye is not the filmmaker to shape it all into a competent motion picture. Shaye is best known as the co-founder of New Line Cinema and hasn't made a movie since 1990's "Book of Love." His instincts for story might've been put to good use over the years at the studio, but "Mimzy" lacks the insight of a seasoned professional. It's a grab bag of themes and sci-fi aspirations that elicit a majestic sense of "huh?" rather than awe.
Adapted from the 1943 short story "Mimzy Were the Borogoves," a healthy amount of updating has been applied to the tale to get it to not only fit in with today's flashy pre-teen diversions, but also to stretch out the story to a feature-length running time. Most of the effort is centered on the children; Shaye shapes a wide-eyed Spielbergian atmosphere and traffics in the pure joy and wonder of a child's reaction to the unknown, eventually using it to contrast the adults, who typically want to stomp on and question anything mysterious.
I found it impossible to feel anything but mild boredom watching "Mimzy" unfold. The performances do not inspire the sensation of discovery that's required of the Mimzy reverse engineering, and I loathed the way Shaye would always push Wryn to tears for cheap effect. The little actress always seems to be in some state of whimpering throughout the film.
Still, "Mimzy" is more deadening than offensive, and Shaye's aspirations to lend the film a "Close Encounters" meets "E.T." mood are halfway successful. He just doesn't have the patience to see it through. Themes on humanity's increasing distance are only half-realized, along with talk of futureworld pollution and the mind-opening potential of advanced thought. Weird, underdeveloped ideas on Mimzy's powers and sophisticated purpose also tend to gum up the works, running the film off the rails just when it finds the right forward momentum.
Shaye saves his trick shots for the final blow, nudging "Mimzy" into a strange Kubrickian final movement of aliens, Adam and Eve visual symbolism, and technological accomplishment that's too ambitious for what's preceded it, concluding the film on a final, and all too appropriate, note of confusion.
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