director Bob Shaye
I don’t know where (probably the San Francisco Chronicle) but I thought that I’d read that The Last Mimzy was a pretty good, fairly unheralded children’s film. I’ve had it stashed away in my queue for the past five years, occasionally pointing it out to the kids without getting much response. In the effort of trying to keep a good variety in the films that we watch together, I finally brought it home.
Where I’d managed to keep somewhat ignorant of the general plot, I was aware that it was adapted from the 1950’s short science fiction story (“Mimsy Were the Borogoves” by Lewis Padgett, actually 1943) and that it had to do with a couple of children who discover something that makes them incredibly intelligent. It’s no need for a big secret, really, as the film doesn’t really turn on the plot twists.
A civilization, far in the future, sends back in time a “magical” box of scientific toys that stimulate children into understanding huge depths of science beyond present day knowledge. This box washes up on the shore of an isolated beach house and transforms a 10 year old boy and his 7 year old sister into mystical geniuses. This ends up freaking out their parents (Timothy Hutton and Joely Richardson) and their science teacher (Rainn Wilson) and when one of their playful experiments triggers a blackout throughout the Northwest, the government begins to try to figure out what’s going on.
The boy plays with a glowing pad that projects enhanced geometry (and the ability to understand spiders), while the girl gloms onto a stuffed rabbit called Mimzy who speaks to her (in a nonlanguage language) of the reasons for its being.
The film is fairly earnest and pretty enjoyable. It has a low-key, light naturalism in trying to depict a relatively “typical” nuclear family and a brother and sister who fight yet also get along. The kids also enjoyed it, not really knowing where it was going.
In the end, the government angle gets pretty goofy (the Feds give up when suddenly it’s revealed that the kids are opening a portal back through time — guess there was nothing left to investigate with no villains about). And in that sense a lot of the narrative clicks itself into convenient places that hold it back from any level of transcendence. Actually, the short story sounds quite interesting in contrast, darker, weirder, makes a little more sense. But even with the facile tropes and convenient closures, it’s a moderately enjoyable thing. Not a undervalued treasure, but a decent kids movie.