It’s been a long time since a movie caught me completely by surprise. Even if I haven’t seen any previews, I usually have some idea of what to expect from reviews I’ve read before I sit down to watch a DVD. But I had no idea what I was getting into with The Last Mimzy. I had seen the movie for sale in stores, so I knew it was out there. From the cover, it looked like a magical kid movie, but since I hadn’t really heard of it, I figured it was probably mediocre at best. I’ve been on a children’s movie kick lately, enjoying simple, fresh, fantastic stories, so I put it on my Netflix queue figuring I’d watch it some afternoon just for fun.
Kurt pulled it out the other night and asked what it was. I played it down. He’ll watch animated films with me, but I don’t think films for children would be his first choice most nights. However, he said, “Let’s watch it,” and we did. And we both got an amazing surprise.
First, this is not a kid’s movie. It’s a science fiction/fantasy movie with main characters who happen to be children. Second, it is not mediocre. Not even remotely. It’s beautifully filmed and has a talented cast. Third, it’s spell-binding. The story unfolds without even attempting to give explanations for what is happening, although we understand everything in the end. Unlike many movies for children, The Last Mimzy lets you watch things happen and figure it out for yourself. It makes the assumption that you have a brain and know how to use it.
I don’t want to give any of the surprises away, so here is a bare bones summary of the plot. Two modern children find a box on the beach, one that presents them with odd objects that they treat as toys. Ten-year-old Noah (Chris O’Neil) studies a transparent rectangle that is full of lights and shapes and begins to see and experience the world in a new way. His younger sister Emma (Rhiannon Leigh Wryn) listens to Mimzy, the stuffed rabbit she finds in the box. Both children are soon behaving oddly, worrying and frightening their parents. As the adults around them become more concerned and start to act, Noah and Emma realize they have an important mission to complete on behalf of Mimzy and the people who sent her.
The comparison the marketers made for The Last Mimzy was to E.T., but I think they missed the boat. If they wanted a Spielberg comparison, they should have gone with Close Encounters of the Third Kind. While both stories are about making contact with an alien race, Mimzy is closer to the mysterious and awe-filled adult approach of Close Encounters than it is the juvenile and humorous E.T.
Although the film has beautiful cinematography and an excellent cast, The Last Mimzy is not perfect. Nit-pickers will find some nits to pick. But it is so much better than the majority of things Hollywood spits out for children that it’s a good example of what other movie makers should be striving for.