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The Last Mimzy (2007)

New Line Home Entertainment
DVD Released: 7/10/2007

All Ratings out of

Review by Mike Long, Posted on 7/5/2007

It's fairly common knowledge that on a movie set, the director is in charge, and at times, the director's clout can extend far beyond the set. But, in many cases, it's the producers and executives who can have final say about a movie and they can (and do) override the director's wishes. So, what happens when the director is also the CEO of the company? Can anyone step in and tell him that he's doing something wrong? That's an interesting question which must have come up during the making of the odd The Last Mimzy.

The Last Mimzy opens with a pre-credit story about a dying planet and one scientist's attempts to save it. We then cut to present-day Earth, where we meet Noah Wilder (Chris O'Neil), a 10-year old boy who isn't very happy. He is only an average student in school, while his younger sister, Emma (Rhiannon Leigh Wryn) is considered gifted. His father, David (Timothy Hutton), is a workaholic lawyer who is rarely around, and his mother, Jo (Joely Richardson), does what she can to keep everyone together.

When the family takes a vacation on a small island near Seattle, Noah and Emma find a strange box on the beach. Inside the box are an assortment of strange objects, and a toy bunny, who Emma names Mimzy. As the kids begin to play with the objects, they find that the articles have seemingly magical powers and can move by themselves. In addition, they begin to get information from the objects, which allows David to excel in school and for Emma to know the future. As their parents worry about the changes in their children, and Noah's science teacher, Mr. White (Rainn Wilson), notes that Noah's doodles resemble ancient Tibetan drawings, Emma realizes that Mimzy needs their help and that she and Noah must use the objects to complete a special task.

The Last Mimzy comes to us from New Line Cinema, and the film was released to theaters on the same day that New Line's sister company released the CGI update of TMNT. Now, for New Line to place what was marketed as a family film up against a sure-fire success like TMNT suggests that they either felt confident that their film could stand up against the more familiar turtles and split the family audience, or that it was beyond hope and they were simply dumping it into theaters. Honestly, I'm not sure which was the case. It may seem that theaters are constantly filled with animated films, but anyone with kids will tell you that it's hard to find a good family film for everyone. So, when one fails at the box-office, it was either overlooked or not very good. The Last Mimzy falls somewhere in between there. (Although, I feel sure that the odd title didn't help it's chances to be a success.)

The central premise of The Last Mimzy (which was taken from a short story) is quite interesting. The idea of an alien scientist sending toys to Earth in hopes that someone will find them and know how to use them is a unique and intriguing idea. The film went through several writers, but it appears that it was Bruce Joel Rubin who finally got the story on track and hammered out the details. Rubin may not be a household name, but he wrote Jacob's Ladder, so I consider him one of the best in the business. (If you can, track down a copy of the Applause book which has the entire Jacob's Ladder script. It's a great read.)

But, around Rubin's ideas director Bob Shaye (who, again, is the co-CEO of New Line) has built an oddly unemotional, and at times, unappealing film. The movie doesn't get off to a great start due to the fact that Noah is such an unlikable character. Yes, he's an unhappy kid who is having trouble at school and at home, but he comes across as a jerk and it may have been a mistake to make him the anchor to the audience. For the first half of the film, it appears that Noah is going to be the focus of the story, and then the movie suddenly shifts to Emma. This doesn't feel like a natural development of the story, but more like a mid-stream decision that is jarring to the viewer. The mid-section of the movie becomes boring and annoying, as the story jumps around from Noah to Emma to their parents to Mr. White and his fiancee. The parents are especially frustrating because they keep assuming that they know what's happening and they never ask the kids. Is this realistic? To an extent, yes, but at some point, if I saw my kids levitating, once they were safely back on the ground, I may ask them what is up with that.

The crux of all of this is that we have a story where no one knows what they are doing. The kids don't realize until very late in the movie that the toys have a purpose. Otherwise, they only play with them. They get new abilities from the toys, but only sort of use them. The parents have no clue what is happening and apparently feel that they're are better off not knowing. I'm sure that all of this was meant to build an air of suspense and mystery, but it only makes the characters come across as ignorant.

The most disappointing aspect of The Last Mimzy is how unengaging it is. Be it the characters or the disjointed story, I just never connected to the film. The ironic thing is that the movie carries a subtle subtext about how technology is isolating people, and yet, I was never moved by this movie. There are not one, but two critical blurbs on the DVD box which compare the film to E.T.. Now, in the sense that both films deal with children and aliens, the comparison is apt. But, that’s where the similarities stop. E.T. is nothing but emotional involvement and it takes a hardened heart to watch that one dry-eyed. I watched The Last Mimzy with my family and the only person who get upset was my youngest, who didn’t like seeing a stuffed animal in peril.

It’s great to see the head of a major studio take not only interest in, but the reins to a science-fiction film aimed at general audiences. Unfortunately, The Last Mimzy stumbles in many respects. The story is interesting, but the cold characters and disjointed story will push many viewers away. The movie has been marketed as a family film, but there are many notions here which aren’t appropriate for younger viewers. I have to say that I’m not sad to hear that this is the last mimzy.

The Last Mimzy flies in from space courtesy of New Line Home Entertainment. The film has come to DVD in two separate releases, one fullscreen and the other widescreen. For the purposes of this review, only the widescreen version was viewed. The film has been letterboxed at 2.35:1 and the transfer is enhanced for 16 x 9 TVs. The image looks fantastic, as there is no grain to be had, nor any defects from the source material. The picture has a very nice depth and the colors look great. I noted no blurring or haloes around characters, nor did I spot any distracting video noise. (There was a skyline shot where one building showed some zig-zagging.) Overall, a very nice video transfer. The audio isn’t too shabby either. The DVD carries a Dolby Digital 5.1 EX audio track which provides clear dialogue and sound effects. There is very nice usage of surround sound in the scenes where the kids play with the toys, as well as good stereo effects. But, the coup-de-grace comes at the 38-minute mark where there is one of the strongest LFE signals that I’ve ever encountered and I wasn’t sure if my subwoofer was going to survive.

The Last Mimzy DVD is part of New Line’s “Infinifilm” series and thus contains a number of extras. We start with an AUDIO COMMENTARY from director Bob Shaye. This is an average talk, as Shaye discusses the production and praises his cast. He doesn’t get too technical or personal, but nor does he sound very excited and there are some quiet spots. “The Last Mimzy: Adapting the Story” (14 minutes) contains comments from Shaye, the producers, and Bruce Joel Rubin as they discuss how a very vague short story was transformed into a feature film. The cast and crew talk about Shaye in “Bob Shaye: Director’s Profile” (9 minutes). We see O’Neill and Wryn’s audition tapes in “Casting the Kids” (7 minutes). Production designer Barry Chusid and Shaye add commentary to a series of stills in “Production Design and Concept Art” (4 minutes). In “’Real is Good’: The Visual Effects” (8 minutes), visual effects supervisor Eric Durst talks about how the effects were done. “Editing and Music” (13 minutes) actually combines two featurettes, profiling editor Alan Heim and composer Howard Shore. The DVD contains 11 DELETED/ALTERNATE SCENES, which run about 13 minutes and can be viewed with an optional commentary by Shaye. These scenes are fairly lackluster. This portion of the extras is rounded out by a MUSIC VIDEO for the song “Hello (I Love You) by Roger Waters and the THEATRICAL TRAILER for the film.

The other Infinifilm extras truly live up to their “Beyond the Movie” tag as they explore the real-life science and ideas which are presented the film. The six featurettes offer comments from scientists and experts and tie the ideas of the movie into the real-world. There is also a “Fact Track” which one can watch along with the film which illuminates certain concepts in the movie.

Review Copyright 2007 by Mike Long