Where the science ends and the fantasy begins is made too clear in The Last Mimzy.
The Last MimzyDirector: Bob Shaye
Cast: Joely Richardson, Timothy Hutton, Michael Clarke Duncan, Rhiannon Leigh Wryn, Chris O'Neil, Rainn Wilson, Naomi Schwartz
Distributor: New Line
MPAA rating: PG
Studio: New Line
First date: 2007
UK DVD Release Date: 2007-07-10
It actually takes a little time to realize how ridiculous much of The Last Mimzy is.
This is a movie that, ostensibly, is based on science. On this very DVD, there are five mini featurettes that explore the science behind the ideas in the movie, prominently advertised on the DVD box. When you click on them, however, you get something that's half making-of featurette and half science class.
None of these featurettes go anywhere to suggest to viewers that the things that happen in the movie might be even remotely possible. The one I was personally most excited about, a featurette called "Sound Waves: Listening to the Universe" started off in the sound designer's studio and then had some brief, barely adequate musings on what sound waves are and where they can be found. Somewhere in there, they work in that spiders can hear using the hair on their legs, and that vibrations are particularly important to spiders because they need to sense the vibrations to know when they've caught their prey. Pretty much none of this goes on to explain, or even discuss, the pertinent events of the movie that inspired this little featurette; it feels utterly tacked on.
We are left, then, to suspend our disbelief. Yes, this is a fairy tale, and it would be silly to dissect the content of most fairy tales. Even so, The Last Mimzy is a fairy tale that supposedly grounds itself in scientific fact and theory. That we go from science into leaps of faith like premonitory dreams and a sort of mental-advancement-osmosis is both incongruous and awkward. Where the science ends and the fantasy begins is made too clear -- where effective science fiction makes the boundary between the two barely noticeable, The Last Mimzy draws that boundary once with a sharpie and then goes over it again with a highlighter for good measure.
Get past this awkward juxtaposition of fantasy and reality, however, and an engaging and highly original movie starts to appear.
The reason it takes a few days after seeing it to realize the ludicrous nature of the worst parts of The Last Mimzy is that while you're watching it, the movie does an incredible job of drawing you into its world and keeping you interested in both the story itself and the plight of its characters. This success is largely due to the fabulous acting of pretty much everyone involved.
Chris O'Neil and Rhiannon Leigh Wryn are suitably kid-like in their parts as Noah and Emma, and Tim Hutton and Joely Richardson do a fine job of nailing the tension inherent in parents who quite obviously love their children but find themselves a bit disconnected from one another. Rainn Wilson is a treat as Noah's slightly eccentric science teacher, and Michael Clarke Duncan is here, for little apparent reason other than the fact that his presence makes movies better...which is a good enough reason to have him here, I suppose. All involved play their parts with conviction, a testament to Bob Shaye's loose-but-effective direction that allowed for some little bits of inspired improvisation on the part of his players.
Alas, loose-but-effective may have served Shaye better in his treatment of his "message" as well...unfortunately, the themes of "love one another", "cherish your surroundings", and "open your mind" are sledgehammered to your skull throughout the movie with an extra heaping dose of "parents just don't understand" thrown in for good measure. It would seem that it is this last method that cements The Last Mimzy's status as a kids' movie.
The myriad extras contained within the DVD release of The Last Mimzy are most interesting for their exposure of the creative process and what it takes to actually make a movie. Unlike many movies that feature deleted scenes, The Last Mimzy's cutting-room-floor snippets actually seemed as though they had the potential to turn the movie in rather varying directions; everything from Rainn Wilson's bare ass (helpfully blurred for the kiddies) to a parental relationship that borders on dysfunctional were once integral to the movie, softened up thanks to conservative test audiences.
Shaye tries to make a point by mentioning that he believes parents have every right to raise their kids the way that they wish to, and that making a "children's movie" meant catering to the sheltering minority. The disdain for that minority is dripping in his commentary, giving it a humorous undertone that pushes it beyond the mere description involved in most deleted-scene fodder. That, in his commentary for the movie, Shaye offers up an anecdote of a time he dressed down his script supervisor for flubbing a crucial detail (only to have it work out in the end, of course) also conveys a willingness to let the audience in for a warts-and-all glimpse at the slightly less glamorous aspects of movie direction and production.
And then, there serving as a backdrop for all of it, is Roger Waters.
Waters' contribution to the soundtrack of The Last Mimzy actually turns out to be an unintentional metaphor for the movie itself. "Hello (I Love You)" is not an awful song on its own merits, and sees a man trying to move on with a career beyond the albatross of Pink Floyd that continues to define him. Yet even as he is moving on, he makes "Is there anybody in there?" a central line in the song, evoking the ever-recognizable "Is there anybody out there?" of Pink Floyd's The Wall. He's trying to have it both ways, trying to move beyond his past but still using it to draw in those fans who might find a smatter of recognition from those five words.
So, too, does The Last Mimzy try to have it too many ways. Parts of it are grounded in fact, but much of it is too obviously fictitious to ever make a convincing case as such. It's a movie about kids and for kids, with a message that is going to go straight over 95 percent of these kids' heads, smacking their parents in the face in the process. The care that went into making it is obvious, and visually, it's actually rather stunning in its largely simplistic use of special effects. Still, the suspension of disbelief that it requires is too weighty to bear for all but the most willing viewers.