Monday, April 2, 2007

Movie Review: The Last Mimzy

But could it be worse?

The Last Mimzy, directed by Robert Shaye. Written by Bruce Joel Rubin and Toby Emmerich. Starring Chris O'Neil, Rhiannon Leigh Wryn, Joely Richardson, and Timothy Hutton. Gratuitous product placement by Nike, Intel, et al. Runtime 90 minutes. Rated PG. USCCB Rating is AII--Adults and Adolescents.

Read other reviews here.

See screenshots here.

Check out the comments at MathFiction.

There's been a rash of bad sf and fantasy movies lately, probably the aftermath of The Lord of the Rings. So we should ask ourselves, was it worth it? Not if you feel an obligation to review major release sf movies, it wasn't. I'd gladly do without Peter Jackson's can't-get-to-the-point screenplay-writing if it meant I didn't have to endure Rubin's and Emmerich's can't-get-to-the-point screenplay-writing.

And if I see the preview for Are We Done Yet? one more time, I might hurt somebody. The title is the question I keep asking, as in, "Are we done watching the entire movie in the preview yet?"

Okay, but back to Mimzy. This wretched, self-serious, self-righteous, pointless bit of science fiction detritus is based on a short story universally acknowledged as a classic of the genre, "Mimsy Were the Borogoves" by Henry Kuttner and Katherine L. Moore. The story is a short, tight, tongue-in-cheek send-up of developmental psychology: A scientist in the future sends some of his kids' toys back in time; a couple of children find the toys and play with them, thereby learning non-Euclidian geometry, which enables them to interpret a secret code in Lewis Carroll's "Jabberwocky" and create a tesseract by rearranging the clutter in their bedroom. It's a good story, so I suppose it's inevitable that Hollywood should eventually bastardize it.

The Last Mimzy is not tight or tongue-in-cheek, and it's certainly not short: though only 90 minutes, it feels like four or five hours. The plot is an incomprehensible mishmash: The toys are not educational, but give the children who find them superpowers; the sending of toys to the past is not an accident, but an attempt to gather "pure" human DNA to somehow remove pollutants from the future Earth; and there's a bunch of nonsensical New Age stuff thrown in. The clever interpretation of "Jabberwocky," the most brilliant part of the original story, is absent. Instead, "Mimzy" is the name of a cute stuffed bunny who tells the kids how to save the world.

The writers of this script have heard of sf, but they've never experienced any. The explanations of why the toys were sent back in time, how a tesseract works, what pollution can do to the biosphere, even the little kid's science project, were all unconvincing. You don't need a PhD in Physics to write good sf, but you must be able to at least fake it reasonably well. Somebody skimped the research on this one.

The director must have laid down a rule that no one was to act better than the child actors. And don't even get me started on the science teacher (Rainn Wilson) and his live-in fiancée (Kathryn Hahn). Every time these two were on-screen, it looked like Amateur Hour. In their defense, they didn't have very good lines to work with ("When will you learn to listen to your dreams, Larry?!?"), but it seemed they could barely remember the lines anyway.

On top of everything else is the blatant product placement: A golf ball is turned just right to reveal the Nike swoosh, a Sprite can appears in closeup, and then comes the revelation that Mimzy has Intel Inside™.

Oh, but even better, Homeland Security shows up when one of the toys causes a citywide blackout. The FBI rushes in, roughs up the kids' parents, and hauls them off. When asked where to take the prisoners, the Homeland Security guy (Michael Clarke Duncan) says, "Well, not to jail, that's for sure." I'm surprised there wasn't a protracted torture scene for good measure.

The Sci Fi Catholic's Rating for The Story Formerly Known as "Mimsy Were the Borogoves":

Myth Rating: Low (nice try, fellas)

Quality: Low (I wish I had a rating lower than Low)

Ethics/Religion: Low (awkwardly inserted New Age stuff does not profundity make)

Filmography links and data courtesy of The Internet Movie Database.

blog comments powered by Disqus