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Last Mimzy, The

Reviewed By David Cornelius
Posted 03/27/07 17:17:10

"The Velveteen Turkey."
1 stars (Sucks)

Early in “The Last Mimzy,” we see a bus full of people ignoring each other. Some are playing video games, others checking email on their PDAs, others listening to their iPods. The message is simple: we have become disconnected from each other in ways that is destroying society and chipping away at our humanity. In case you miss the point, the same message is spoken in the first scene, and similar notions pop up throughout - the family’s home is littered in always-on television screens (one’s in the bathroom!), the son is often immersed in a video game.

Yes, but “The Last Mimzy” is such a boring, ridiculous tale that all those shots of people tuning out serve as a tease. Why couldn’t I haul out a Nintendo DS and ignore what’s barely happening on screen? I mean, I could be getting my butt kicked in Super Mario, and instead I’m stuck listening to heavy-handed new age preachiness, clumsy moralizing, and the occasional scene consisting of nothing but people screeching at each other.

The film is based on “Mimzy Were the Borogroves,” a short story from Henry Kuttner and C.L. Moore, writing under the name Lewis Padgett. Not having read the story, I can only guess that it was not a product placement-loaded jumble of moralizing and lousy editing. Indeed, the cluttered, slapdash nature of the story is probably the result of four writers working to adapt the thing into a script. And Toby Emmerich, credited (along with Bruce Joel Rubin) for providing the final screenplay, is a studio executive whose lone previous script effort - the abysmal “Frequency” - reeked of vanity project, the work of a suit desperate to let his creative side shine for a change.

Which brings us to Robert Shaye, CEO of New Line Cinema. Shaye directed “Mimzy,” his first time in such a role since his feature debut, 1990’s “Book of Love.” And yeah, “The Last Mimzy” plays like it was directed by a studio executive with minimal on-set experience, written by a couple of pals who felt they were due a chance to work on their boss’ pet project. The movie is creaky and dangerously dull, with plot points that feel built by committee, with awkward editing, with mediocre writing, with characters that have no reason to be in such a story, with elements included only because they will remind us of other, better movies. Or maybe the story was always a drab clunker with chunks of “E.T.” lifted for good measure.

Our story opens in the far future, where children gather in the flower fields to hear a telepathic story of the Last Mimzy. You see, long ago, the human genetic code was polluted by pollutants (!), we had lost the ability for human contact, and our world was in danger. Our very humanness was slipping away. Until, that is, one brave scientist sent a box full of rocks and a stuffed bunny rabbit back in time.

The intro is not necessary for the story - it would have been better, in fact, for us to discover such things on our own; as it is, we spend most of the first half hour just waiting for the kids to just find the darn box already - but it gives the filmmakers a chance to club us over the head pretty early with two diverse notions: pollution is bad and human contact is good. In case we missed this point, we get the bus scene, all those TVs, and, yes, a long, out-of-place lecture in which elementary school science teacher Mr. White (Rainn Wilson) tells the kids that pollution is bad, and we have to stop it or we’ll tamper with our own DNA.

Mr. White is a new age-y hippie, wearing Pink Floyd t-shirts to class and reminiscing with his meditation-crazy girlfriend (Kathryn Hahn) about their spiritual vacation in Nepal. He seems to be teaching fourth-graders the complexities of genetics and microbiology, or, at least, that’s what he’d be teaching them if he’d actually pay attention to the notes he wrote on the chalkboard instead of rambling on about why The Man is all, like, so bogus.

We get many scenes of Mr. White and his girlfriend, who talk about all the psychic dreams he has, and, later, what connection they must have with the rest of the story. Sadly, these people have little to actually do in the rest of the story - they discover the kids’ new talents, yes, and they give the kids a ride when they need it for the finale, but ultimately, they’re almost completely unnecessary. They offer nothing to the story; their job is to be the mouthpiece for the script’s ham-fisted message-making.

But I’m getting ahead of the story. The Box of the Future is found by young siblings Noah (Chris O’Neil) and Emma (Rhiannon Leigh Wryn) while enjoying spring break at the family’s beach house. (Note to Bob Shaye: If you’re trying to get average suburban audiences to connect with your “average suburban family” characters, giving them a beach house is probably not your wisest move.) They quickly discover that the contents are magical: rocks levitate and create a portal into another dimension; a crystal allows Noah to teleport objects; the bunny rabbit, named Mimzy, speaks in a whispering jibberish that Emma can clearly understand.

(On the teleporting thing: only a movie made by studio executives would make sure that the object involved was a can of Sprite. Later, a major plot point revolves entirely around the Intel logo. And to think they could have had another big tie-in with all those flatscreen TVs the family has propped around their houses!)

Ownership of the Future Stuff makes the kids instantly super-intelligent (another plot point that ultimately has nothing to do with the outcome of the story, and is not properly resolved by the closing credits), which makes the grown-ups wonder what’s going on. When the Future Stuff causes a blackout, we’re suddenly introduced to a Homeland Security honcho (Michael Clarke Duncan, looking as bored with the role as we are) convinced the family is a terrorist cell. In between, Noah learns to talk to spiders and wins a science fair, Emma cries a lot about people taking Mimzy dying, mom and dad (Joely Richardson and Timothy Hutton) furrow their brows. Again, nothing actually matters, not even the bit about Mimzy dying (which becomes a cheap ploy to jerk tears - other than Emma’s insistence of the fact, there’s never any convincing feeling of Mimzy being in jeopardy).

All of this crawls along at a snail’s pace, sometimes even slower, like the scenes when editor Alan Heim is forced to cut in non-matching close-ups to cover up gaps in the child actors’ performances. Too many scenes have their already lousy rhythm thrown off even more thanks to these ill-timed edits. (Watch the babysitter scene. An absolute mess.) Considering the young stars provide quality performances during the longer takes (as do the adults), I’m at a loss to explain just why such desperately gawky editing was required.

Who knows, maybe it was Heim’s way of warding off the boredom that oozes out of every frame. “The Last Mimzy” is a movie where a lot of things that don’t matter happen in such a way that you’re even sure nothing’s happening at all. This is an ill-conceived disaster from top to bottom, an effort to reach the heights of sincere, family-friendly, intelligent science fiction that fails so miserably that the most we can bother showing it is a big fat yawn.

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