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The Last Mimzy

All Too Familiar Sci-Fi Family Film

Helmed by uber-producer-turned-director Robert Shaye (Book of Love) and written by Bruce Joel Rubin (Jacob’s Ladder, Ghost) and Toby Emmerich (Frequency) from the 1943 short story, “Mimsy Were the Borogoves,” by Lewis Padgett, The Last Mimzy is a family drama with a predictable science-fiction twist and an obvious, heavy-handed environmental message. Predictability and theme aside, The Last Mimzy turns out to be a near-perfect refuge for parents hoping for undemanding fare for a Saturday afternoon with their children.

Noah Wilder (Chris O'Neil) has everything the average 10-year old could want or need, including access to expensive techno-gadgets and games and happily married parents, Jo (Joely Richardson), a housewife, and David (Timothy Hutton), a hard-working attorney in a Seattle law firm. Noah’s five-year old sister, Emma (Rhiannon Leigh Wryn), though, is smarter and more talented than he is.

Everything changes when Noah and Emma find an odd-looking box. Inside the box, they find several objects or “toys,” including a stuffed rabbit Emma takes to calling "Mimzy". Playing with their new toys turns Noah and Emma into super-geniuses. When one of the new toys causes a blackout, the government official leading an anti-terrorism task force, Nathanial Broadman (Michael Clarke Duncan), enters the mix.

Not surprisingly, The Last Mimzy hits all the character, story, and emotional beats we've come to expect from family films with a science fiction twist (start with E.T.: The Extraterrestrial and work your way from there). The twist itself is one we've seen countless times before (e.g., The Terminator trilogy, 1987's Millennium, TV's "The 4400"). Thanks to a crude, exposition-heavy prologue set in the distant future, we learn who sent the toys and why they sent the toys to Noah and Emma. A redundant epilogue brings The Last Mimzy full circle, back to the future (insert yawn here). While all that sounds like a lot of unnecessary spoon-feeding, it is for adults, but not for small children who might find the movie confusing at times.

Joely Richardson, Timothy Hutton, and Michael Clarke Duncan bring a steady dose of professionalism to the proceedings, as do Rainn Wilson and Kathryn Hahn in supporting roles. That’s all well and good, but any film centering on children as the main characters succeeds or fails on the strengths of the performances given by child actors. Luckily, there’s nothing negative to report here.

Newcomers Chris O'Neil and Rhiannon Leigh Wryn are more than watchable as Noah and Emma, respectively. O'Neil is more polished, but then again he's older. Often asked to carry emotion-heavy scenes (an intimidating task for any child actor not named Dakota or Elle Fanning), Wryn turns in a mostly believable performance.

Adults expecting more than lightweight fare might be disappointed with The Last Mimzy. As a director, Shaye definitely shows some rust. Transitions between scenes are often awkward or rushed. Shaye also seems uncertain to where best to place the camera (hint: keep the camera away from moving characters). The screenplay could have used some tightening too and additional conflict to make us care more about the characters and what happens to them. Still, thanks to impressive special effects, The Last Mimzy is a (mostly) painless experience for adults to sit through while younger children will love the wish-fulfillment fantasy at the center of the movie.

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars