RIORI Vol 3, Installment 55: Robert Shaye’s “The Last Mimzy” (2007)


The Last Mimzy


The Players…

Timothy Hutton, Joely Richardson, Rainn Wilson, Kathryn Hahn and Michael Clark Duncan, with Chris O’Neill and Rhiannon Leigh Wryn (the pesky kids).


The Story…

One day at the beach, li’l sis Emma and big bro Noah discover a mysterious—nay, alien—box of toys that looks like it was sent from the future or something.

Or something indeed. Perhaps illustrated best when the siblings start to develop some inexplicable, unearthly abilities.

It’s amazing what one can find when doing some beachcombing.


The Rant…

Remember back a few months ago with the Wanderlust installment? When I remarked at the outset that I didn’t really know how to start that rant?

With The Last Mimzy I have no idea where to start. Like really don’t know. I’d like to think I’m fairly quick with a word or a poignant musing. Be it a movie critique, social commentary, how Panic At The Disco’s Beatlesque album tanked and should have or a restaurant review of a dive I’ve never been to (at least until I can score a reservation). In short, I can pull a lot of sh*t out of my bum when the demands move me. So to speak.

Mimzy has stumped me. Something socially relevant pertaining to this week’s flick escapes me. Gotta think hard about this one. Maybe all this mucking about in the cinematic salt mines has finally taken its toll on my wizened, overripe movie-slopping brain. Maybe I’ve become too damned tired of too many sh*tty surprises from Netflix that they’ve cracked my coconut into submission. Maybe I’ve achieved a remarkable level of jadedness that I just don’t wanna play no more, just pick up my ball and go on home.

Waitaminnit.

Play.

That gives me an idear.

What? You think I’d leave you hanging? And that wasn’t some troll, by the way. Sometimes when you write you just gotta keep typing until sh*t starts to make sense. Here’s hoping. So…

Might’ve mentioned before that I was a kid and I had healthy Lego collection. Wait, I didn’t? Okay, so shaddap and sit a spell. Down in the ‘rents basement I played, escaping school, avoiding sisters (and mostly every other creature on the planet), building worlds and—ultimately as well as essentially—playing god as if out of that Calvin & Hobbes Sunday strip. Big ups to anyone who jives to that shining nugget of 80s nostalgia. You get a gold star.

Playing god. At some basal level isn’t most kid games pre-internet designed or directed at being either the conquerer or the savior? What, a bit grandiose there? Then remind me how tragic it was for you to lose in the Little League finals after a perfect season, weeks upon weeks crushing creampuff nine-year olds into dust so fine that the therapy bills would stack up all the way to Olympus Mons? Uh-huh. And Old Yeller still dies.

Shut the f*ck up about spoilers already.

Play wasn’t a life or death thing as a kid, but it sure as hell could feel like that. Little League upsets notwithstanding, any kid in a basement full of Legos with also a battered NES choked with cartridges declaring save the kingdom or else or even making your model trains crash so often Amtrak started taking notes as how to better their safety standards. All these possible scenarios meant that the kid made the rules—their rules—and Heaven forbid anyone get in the way of their world-building. Especially mom and dad. They paid for the hundreds of dollars in Lego spacecraft as well as the electrical bill. It was a never-ending struggle for power between the light of youth and the darkness of—

Hey, who killed the lights? It’s hella dark down here in this basement. I think I can hear the rats chewing through the walls.

*click*

That’s better. My point is this, childhood play does a lot more than expand imaginations. It can build esteem. It can give a clue as to what’s going to happen after puberty (even if that means the perils of interacting with the yucky opposite sex). It can hone unknown internal skills that may drive you through the rest of your days. It can give you the time to understand the difference between justice and responsibility against cruelty and oppression from reading too many X-Men comics (worked for me, as well as an unhealthy dose of Michel Foucault). Moreover, play can give you drive.

Play can make a kid focus. It can make a kid socialize more freely (or not). It can make them assert themselves. It can make them understand the nature of their environment and how to either better fit in or perhaps take control. Learn their role. Broaden their horizons. Be authors of their own fate.

Or maybe just slop about on the summery shore. Yeah. Playing’s a good, healthy thing. Besides, one never knows what some kid’ll find (about themselves) by dashing into the surf…


Noah and Emma Wilder (O’Niell and Wryn respectively) aren’t exactly thick as thieves as a brother and sister could be. Noah’s a dorky, lousy student with his head in the clouds. Emma’s a wistful, emotional girl caught up in wonder and…well, more wonder. Despite their divergent personalities they get on okay. Arm’s length that, but better that.

It’s until their usual trip to the family summer home. There they learn to get along splendidly.

It’s not because of the salty breezes. Nor the s’mores over the fire. Not even dad taking extra time off from work to screw around with the two of them. Nope. To Noah and Emma, this summer is life as a beach.

One afternoon in search of a perfect wave, Noah literally stumbles over a curious looking box embedded in the sand. It’s metallic, covered in runes and makes pleasant vibrations when he holds it. Emma discovers an added feature to the thing: toys! The box pops open and is filled with joy. Magic crystals, glowing matter transfiguring stones and best of all a sentient bunny stuffie who calls herself Mimzy. Screw the beach now, Mimzy and her toys are far more interesting than splashing about in the ocean seining for algae.

Soon after their discovery the kids start showing signs of unnatural…brilliance. Math loser Noah creates new designs in engineering while Emma displays signs of precognition. As amazing as this seems, Noah and Emma’s dad Chris (Hutton) and mom Jo (Richardson) really can’t follow what to make of their new prodigies. At first it’s incredible, then it’s worrisome, and finally a bit scary. Dangerous even.

So what’s up with the bunny? What’s Mimzy and her playthings doing to the Wilder kids? And where exactly did these “toys” come from?

Well, it’s not where per seWhen is a more apt…


Um, yeah. Right. Sure.

I was clearly not the demographic in mind when director Shaye cut The Last Mimzy. In fact, I’m not the demographic at all for films like this period. Rainn Wilson or no.

I’ve never been much for fantasy films. Spoke about this at minor length in the Oz, The Great And Powerful installment (even though I found that flick pretty okay). It’s understood that the fantastical and wondrous spices that dappled Jim Henson’s The Dark Crystal and Labyrinth, Fleming’s definitive cut of The Wizard Of Oz (the singing didn’t hurt either) and even the brutality of Miyazaki’s Princess Mononoke invite a sort of magic. Or curse considering Prince Ashitaka’s plight. This sense of magic is all about wonder and flair in just the right doses. You overload a fantasy film with too much goddam wonder, mystery and syrupy kiddies you’ll end up with a confusing mess.

The last bit was in regards to Mimzy, BTW. Y’know, in case you were falling asleep at the wheel or something.

I got nothing against fantasy films really. They just ain’t my flavor. Still despite my bias I do know when a fantasy flick is stretching it too far to keep the audience engaged. Like reaching. Mimzy‘s drawbacks weren’t based on reaching out to the kiddies in hopes to both snare their imagination and prime their pumps for the inevitable promo trucker hat tie-in. Shaye was reaching for everything. Maybe something would be a better word.

Mimzy‘s biggest crime is that it never really goes anywhere. There is a sort of Spielberg sense of wonder going on here, that much is certain. But unlike Steve’s hand with the camera—where the audience understands E.T. in a few key, quick strokes—Shaye draws the whole story out like stretching long, thin strands from a spent wad of chewing gum. He executes a slow build-up to the wonder. Really  slow build-up so much so that almost an hour into watching this 90 minute movie I had the barest clue as to what the f*ck was going on. The whole “magic” aspect in action became very tedious, especially with next to no exposition. One could get the impression that Shaye’s a big deal Speilberg fanboy and was trying way too hard to honor his idol’s craft. I mean, c’mon, even Noah looks like Elliot. All we need next is Emma jamming Reese’s Pieces down Mimzy’s gullet to ensure she’ll fart rainbows and tell the future.

What I’m driving at here is that Mimzy lacks focus. When the director spends an eternity showing us—besides a lot of CGI muscle—is…nothing. The plot is razor thin. The acting is almost throwaway (save the late Duncan. He could always fill a room, literally and figuratively), especially the Wilder kids, the supposed wunderkinds who are as wooden as a field of toothpicks. There is no sense of urgency that could drive better pacing yadda blah whatever. And it’s a shame. Mimzy had a pretty cool concept at heart, but Shaye was too busy and fascinated with his toy to establish a solid story here. A lot of that has to deal with Mimzy toying with us to build up quite a head of steam to get nowhere. That crack I made about the one hour mark? I wasn’t sh*tting you. I saw the timer, and me watching that instead of the screen is the death knell for any of my viewings. In short, get on with it, Mimzy.

Okay, so Mimzy is fantasy Spielberg light. Very light. We’re talking aspartame here. A lot of nifty ideas were put to waste with this movie. I’ve read even pro critics were down with the splash needing more of the dash. I sure did, and I don’t like fantasy films in general, let alone get paid to watch such trifles. But gratis, once again, I did so here. RIORI is a PSA first and foremost after all. Like, “don’t say I didn’t warn you.”

Now if I only had myself a Mimzy to warn me about this Mimzy.

I still like kids, though. Magic or otherwise. Who else is gonna nab that remote stuck under the couch?

Shut up moms and dads. You’ve thought about/done that. For shame.


The Verdict…

Rent it or relent it? Relent it. Big shocker that. If you wanna make a good fantasy film, for God’s sake hold back on the magic part and focus on the f*cking fantasy part. Atomized hands only work so far. I know, I’ve tried. Don’t ask.


Stray Observations…

  • It’s amazing nowadays how we can date a film by the tech. So quickly.
  • “Were there any lotto numbers?”
  • Ah, the magic of youth. Get it?
  • “Don’t tell your parents I said the word ‘screw’.”
  • Didn’t Hutton win an Oscar once?
  • “Am I the only one here who doesn’t have a clue as to what’s going on?” Nope.

Next Installment…

John Cusack and friends dip toes into the well of nostalgia via the Hot Tub Time Machine. Hell, with a title like that…


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