Friday, 4 April 2008

Sci Fi Through Space/Time: The Last Mimzy

(Apologies to anyone who read an early draft of this and thought it was poorly edited. It was, partially because I'm a terrible idiot, but mostly because the computer I'm using is massively unreliable and I had to just post and walk away or it would have gone out of the window. Hopefully things are fixed now.)

My plan to chronicle my adventures in sci fi cinema pretty much foundered not long after I started, a long-gestating plan to talk about Southland Tales falling by the wayside. That said, I still do intend to inspect that, as it is a fascinating project (which is not praise, BTW), but it will be in a different, more combative format. I've still been experiencing good and bad sci fi since my last Sci Fi Through Space/Time post, but never got around to talking about them. In fact, I woke up today fully intending to talk about a movie I saw recently and fell in love with, but instead, while trying to eat a bowl of penne (aka the worst pasta shape in the world), I decided to watch Bob Shaye's The Last Mimzy, and it's such an oddity I just had to bring it up here. The other movie will have to wait until another time (hopefully not next September).

Ostensibly a kids’ movie owing a debt to ET, The Last Mimzy is actually a mash note to Buddha that will doubtless be picked up by New Agers the world over, portraying as it does a post-Age of Aquarius world filled with flowers and telepathy and flying children in stark contrast to the nasty now, which contains nothing but hate and gadgets and fear and other deeply unpleasant things. I got a hint of that from the trailers, and it made me curious to see it when it had a feeble release last year, but mainly it stuck in my head because Charlie Brooker used to use the word "mimsy" as a slang word for the lower ladyparts, and the thought of a kids’ movie about that amused me greatly.

Instead of weird and surely illegal child-friendly porn, it's based on this short story, Mimsy Were The Borogoves, by sci fi writers Henry Kuttner and C. L. Moore, operating under the pseudonym Lewis Padgett. Originally (as you can see if you read that handy version of it linked to above), it was a dark tale of children coming across a box from the future, filled with toys (to be used as markers and nothing more) which educate them enough that they learn a new language and a form of multidimensional geometry that enables them to translate the Lewis Carroll poem Jabberwocky (written by Carroll's muse, who was in possession of another future toy sent back earlier). With this knowledge at hand, the children create a wormhole taking them from our dimension, much to the horror of their booze-drinking jerk parents. It's quirky and clever and kind of sinister. It was previously adapted as a TV series on French TV as Tout spliques ├ętaient les Borogoves. I have no idea how that turned out.

The Last Mimzy ignores the intellectual and atmospheric (even quite cynical) tone of the story, going instead for something much more optimistic and woolly, but with incidental details that held my interest throughout. As I said when I started this project, I was looking for sci fi films that were not of the norm, that were as inventive and original and peculiar and stimulating as the best of sci fi literature, and though this falls far short of those expectations, it represents a collision of sci fi tropes, cultural markers, and potential corporate fiddlings that fascinated me.

Beginning in a cuddly tunic-wearing pastoral future of much lazy sci fi, a teacher mind-melds with her young students and tells them the history of their civilisation, beginning with the travails of a scientist attempting to save humanity from itself. The world soul and the gene pool have become so corrupted that humanity faces extinction. Nothing in that world is pure enough to save us, and so he sends objects back in time using a complicated and interestingly visualised Einstein-Rosen Bridge in the hope of educating the recipients enough to reconstruct the mechanism and send back the living computer (known as a Mimzy, and yes, I did smirk) with a sample of their DNA, which, compared to that of his fellow man, is pure. Knowing that adults would not be able to understand such a concept (an idea taken from the short story), he packages the Mimzy as a toy rabbit, in the hope that it would be handed to a child, who would then communicate with the Mimzy, learn from it, and save the future.

There's a hodge-podge of ideas all over this plot, and that's before I get into the meat of the movie (the previous paragraph accounts for 3% of the movie's length, and about 75% of the interesting ideas). There are many influences here, more than I could find right now, so I'll just go through the ones that came to mind while watching.
  • Sending things to the past to save the future = The Terminator franchise (and Harlan Ellison's Soldier primarily please don't sue me Harlan!!!).
  • Using the past to save the future = John Varley's short story Air Raid and the subsequent movie Millennium, which also reminded me of The Last Mimzy due to its unorthodox effects and ugly, muted pallette.
  • Children targeted by peculiar force =
    John Wyndham's Chocky, as well as the kids’ TV show from the 80s, which also featured tunnel effects and crystal shapes.
  • Children taught to use advanced technology during dreams = Explorers, which was one of my favourite films when younger.
  • Humanity transformed to a higher state of being thanks to powers that appear to be paranormal = Phenomenon, one of the most New Age movies ever made.
  • Future jeopardised by the death of the world soul = Final Fantasy - The Spirits Within, as well as the seventh installment of the game that inspired the movie.
  • Future society as utopian, peaceful land of plenty = Star Trek.

  • Well, there are lots of examples of utopian sci fi, but that's the one that sprang to mind, mostly because The Last Mimzy is filled with the kind of New Age sentiment and imagery beloved of the more extreme Star Trek fans, the ones who believe Gene Roddenberry was providing a template for humanity to live by (similar to the goals of Scientology, though without the Church and the structure and financial power). The film definitely posits that we will one day be saved by the potential of the human race (a potential which is contained within an object of such unbelievable sentimental significance that it threatens to drown the movie in a sea of cynicism from the more sceptical viewer, but I'll get to that soon), and living in a utopian society that makes Roddenberry's vision look like Baltimore in The Wire, but prior to that it has to cast us as lost souls missing out on realising our full potential, and it leads to some amazing anvillicious moments.

    Shaye and his writers Bruce Joel Rubin and Toby Emmerich (from a screen story by Carol Skilken and J.M. Barrie fan James V. Hart) go to great lengths to show us how the modern world is in the process of enormous FAIL. Metal detectors erected in schools, kids using technology to cheat at exams, a populace disassociated form itself; it's horrible! Except not really. My favourite shot is of a bus full of people ignoring each other because they're listening to iPods, texting, typing on laptops, and playing PSPs (which appear throughout, though I can imagine Sony is really pissed at how the machine is used as a symbol of youth corruption). I weep for humanity!

    Except that might work in an idyllic area like the one this film is set in (the outskirts of Seattle and some lovely looking areas of British Columbia), but everywhere else, there is no way people want to be talking on the bus. Just a couple of days ago, while trying to get home and read a book I was really interested in, I had to wait for the driver to argue with a guy who crashed into our vehicle, and then bitch at some passengers who had a go at him a bit later. There was no one on that bus I wanted to talk to. Yay distractions that stop me from having to communicate with my fellow man who are often quite hostile and unpleasant!

    After setting up this horrible world of soullessness, we are introduced to our two protagonists, Noah and Emma Wilder, played by Chris O'Neil and Rhiannon Leigh Wryn. He's older and is truly obnoxious and nasty, she's cutesy and innocent and cloying. Noah is a pretty unpleasant kid at the start, deep in an existential fugue so powerful he lashes out at everything around him, hating himself and his life, cutting himself off from everyone by incessantly playing evil computer games, and picking on his sister. By the end he is a little hero helping to save humanity, but in the early stages he is tough to associate with. That's fine. I get what the goal was there, but showing him using games to cut himself off from everyone else is a bit rich coming from a film co-written and directed by men whose company, New Line, licences out its film properties to gaming companies for adaptation. Perhaps Shaye resents this, and doesn't want the money. If so, it's news to Peter Jackson. As you can see, I had trouble reconciling the nature of the filmmakers and the message they were trying to sell.

    The kids are taken to a beach house by their mother, Jo (played by Joely Richardson), while their father David (played by Timothy Hutton), can't make it because his law job keeps him from spending time with his kids blah blah, While playing on a beach they find the mysterious box sent from the future by the scientist. Inside it are weird mineral artifacts, a blue blob thing (which I thought would come to life and start interacting with the kids, though it thankfully doesn't), and a toy rabbit that talks to Emma and educates her. Noah fixates upon a slab of green crystal, which his mother only sees as a rock. Oh adults, your wonderless minds are impermeable as steel!

    After spending time with the objects, the kids (especially Emma) realise they have properties that appear magical, much as Arthur C. Clarke said future technology would appear like magic to us. Fragments of a broken rock, when thrown at the floor, will hover and rotate, creating a localised field that temporarily undoes objects on a molecular level. Mimzy communicates with Emma and unlocks her telepathic potential, as well as predicts the future for her. The crystal slab improves Noah's vision, as well as teaches him how to access a lattice of connective energy in reality that can be used to open small wormholes, and shows him how to generate sound waves on a frequency that can be used to manipulate insects and spiders into doing his bidding. Using that, he makes a mindblowing science fair entry, using spiders to create a bridge structure that could revolutionise the construction industry. This is what would happen more regularly if computer games and Facebook were banned obviously.

    This was my favourite section of the movie, pulling weird concepts and effects out of the ether even though many of the ideas would come to nothing later. I particularly liked the scene with Hutton showing his son how to play golf, and Noah using his wormhole power to send the ball 300ft. So, you know, yay for humanity, but bad news for Titleist. I guess the future contains no sport. (Wow, can I go there tomorrow?)

    Sadly, the film goes off the rails in a peculiar way at that point, and by peculiar I mean predictable, but featuring plot developments I really thought I would never see in a kids’ movie. The growing power of the kids scares their parents, who react badly to the presence of the objects. Richardson in particular has an unpleasant freakout, after which the family starts to fall apart. At around this time the crystal slab merges with the weird blob artifact, creating a new object in an electromagnetic pulse explosion that wipes out Seattle's power grid.

    This is enough to attract the attention of Homeland Security, headed up by Michael Clarke Duncan, who barges into their house under the authority of the PATRIOT Act (yes, in the middle of a kids’ film), and detains the family, impounds the objects, and generally acts like a bit of a dick. It's at this point that we can add Poltergeist (family unit threatened by outside force) and ET (family unit exposed to otherworldly thing detained by government) to the list of films mimicked.

    Poltergeist was strongly on my mind during the scenes with Noah's science teacher, Larry (played by super-awesome Rainn Wilson), and his fiancee Naomi, played by Kathryn Hahn. Noah's accelerated braingrowth attracts Larry's attention, as does his doodling of complex Tibetan mandalas. While Noah and Emma's parents are wary of their children now that they have begun to change, Larry and Naomi see the potential of the two, Larry because of the science angle, Naomi because she is a big Buddhist hippie type. They try to convince Jo that the kids are special, in a scene similar to one in Poltergeist, when benign paranormal investigators attempt to help the Freeling family. However, in that film JoBeth Williams is receptive to what they say, but here Joely Richardson's character freaks out.

    To be honest, I don't blame her. She has put the weird behaviour of her kids down as just growing pains, and then suddenly two hippies show up blathering on about mandalas, tulkus and palm reading. This is especially bogus as, except for the mandala idea (mandalas being maps of the universe, as well as being a pretty pattern that shows up throughout the movie), none this litany of Buddhist folklore has any bearing on the film whatsoever.

    Which is one of the reasons the movie baffled me so much. Here I was watching a very optimistic movie (almost to the point of parody) that had been made by guys I thought were nothing more than suits, as well as being co-written by someone who appeared to be the most downbeat person in Hollywood. In the past I have resisted watching movies by Bruce Joel Rubin as they are entirely humourless and self-consciously obsessed with death. In an interview with Premiere magazine conducted prior to the release of Jacob's Ladder, Rubin spent a lot of time talking about how fascinated he was by death, and how it was his muse. A quick look at his IMDb page shows him working almost exclusively on this topic for years. Brainstorm is the bonkers tale of a machine that records what happens to Louise Fletcher after her death. Ghost is obviously about Patrick Swayze stalking his girlfriend after death. Jacob's Ladder is about a Vietnam vet who doesn't realise he is dead and in a Hell populated with Francis-Bacon-esque fellas with the rapid shaky head thing that's been ripped off repeatedly ever since. My Life is about a terminally ill man coming to terms with his impending doom. Deep Impact is about an entire planet coming to terms with its impending doom. Even his adaptations of books, Deceived and Deadly Friend, are about death in some way (faked death and implanting a brain into a robot after death, respectively). Only Stuart Little 2 seems to have escaped that, though I haven't seen it. Perhaps the whole family dies at the end, after trying to come to terms with it for a while.

    I don't know. It's an impressive sight, someone who has managed to corner the market on an entire subject, but his obsession with it always smacked of self-importance, as if this was his badge of profundity, not helped that his scripts have often been horribly depressing. Deep Impact in particular made me miserable for weeks after seeing it. Of those movies, I only really enjoyed Brainstorm, and I don't even think it's that great. I just liked the concept, and Doug Trumbull's weird decision to turn it into a slapstick comedy whenever he could.

    Turns out I misunderstood where Rubin was coming from, and poking around the internet today has shown me the error of my ways. His obsession with death is not the morbid and ostentatious thing I thought it was, but rooted in his belief in Buddhism. He's been a believer for twenty-five years, and though the theme of dealing with death has been prevalent in his work, The Last Mimzy is the first film of his that I've seen that deals with his Buddhism. Seems I was wrong about his interest in death all along. That's not to say I suddenly like his work. I still don't enjoy any of the films I listed earlier. I just think he's not as pretentious now, is all.

    Sadly, considering this is the first time I've seen Rubin's belief system represented within a film, it's via the characters of Larry and Naomi, who are almost the comic relief. Perhaps it's just that Rainn Wilson and Kathryn Hahn are light and likeable (and of course Wilson is Dwight Schrute, which tends to hang in the head even when he plays someone completely different), but their Buddhism isn't taken very seriously. Rubin isn't the last name on the script; the last draft of the script appears to belong to New Line Head of Production Toby Emmerich, who might have rewritten them a bit. I suspect this is definitely the case as Emmerich's only other screenplay credit is on Frequency, at the end of which a secondary character become a multi-millionaire by investing in Yahoo! thanks to a stock tip from the future. In The Last Mimzy, Naomi obsesses over a dream Larry had where he accurately predicted lottery numbers that he never played, and at the end of the film he has another prediction. Emmerich has a big boner for characters coming into unearned money, it seems.

    The thing that really grates about that scene, though, is that Naomi reads Emma's palm and sees that she is indeed a tulku, and has great potential to change the world. This turns out to be the case, but what has her status as a tulku got to do with the future? Why is she the chosen one? She discovered the box by accident, and there's no hint that it was aimed at her. It's just a weird shout-out to Buddha that is shoe-horned in with extra palm-reading thrown in (or is part of a larger plot that was removed in the final draft). Even the mandala stuff is half-heartedly explained. It's a map of the universe? Or a nice design for a rug? You decide. It's all such a peculiar hodgepodge of religion, superstition, and science.

    When Homeland Security finally storm in and arrest the whole family, they take Mimzy from Emma, who is already freaking out about her friend dying in a total lift from ET designed to add some artificial suspense to what has been aimlessly flicking back and forth between genial sci fi exploration and shrill family drama. After the scientists have had a chance to poke around with it, they discover it is in fact an enormously powerful sentient computer, and an electron microscope shot of part of it unveils the most bizarre bit of product placement since Evolution turned into a huge ad for Head and Shoulders shampoo.

    Yes, Mimzy is built using an Intel processor. Again, not the best product placement as Mimzy is dying by this point, but it's okay. Using their new powers, Noah and Emma escape the building and meet up with Larry and Naomi (who gets contacted via dreamail), before heading back to the beach house to send Mimzy back. While on their way there, Emma cries about Mimzy's increasing feebleness (not as emotional a scene as Elliot crying over ET's corpse, but then it is an inanimate toy that occasionally chirrups that we're talking about), and a tear falls on the rabbit/supercomputer. You know where I'm going with this, don't you.

    In a burst of effects, Noah and Emma manage to use the future tech to send Mimzy back to the future, with all the adults present. Michael Clarke Duncan's Homeland Security boss is turned into a pussycat and forgives everyone, the family reconciles, and Larry gets those lottery numbers. Better still, the future scientist uses the DNA included in the tear to heal humanity, and the benevolent future-teacher finishes her story, at which point her students lift into the air and fly off. Very satisfying, though utterly mechanical.

    At this point the film goes into code-overdrive, with image after image of New Age significance appearing. Just like Republican presidents are good at filling their speeches with coded lines that can only be picked up by their hard-Right Christian followers, The Last Mimzy resonates with New Age symbolism. In ET the film ended with a resurrection and a rainbow, two things that chimed with Christian viewers. Here we have mandalas, greys (or rather future dwellers wearing environment suits that look alien), doorways of light, and vortexes, all of which would excite those viewers who think The X-Files is a documentary in disguise.

    That's not a criticism, but it's something you would expect from a filmmaker operating on the fringe of Hollywood. Instead it's directed by the CEO of a major motion picture production house, written by an Oscar winner and the head of production of that same studio, and given a hard sell and wide opening on over 3000 screens (an opening it didn't capitalise on; it only grossed $26,702,770 worldwide). It's not a good enough movie to justify the time I've spent talking about it except that it is such a peculiar movie to come out of Hollywood, pretty much qualifying as ET meets What The Fuck Do We Know?

    Shaye seems like a hard-ass in his business dealings, and has a reputation as someone less in touch with their inner child than most New Agers, and has created many controversial and violent films that could be considered damaging to the innocence of his fellow man (scroll down this list of New Line movies) but if this interview is to be believed, he is quite serious about the message of this movie. It's a shame his arguments are often so ill thought out.
    I’ve shown this movie to a lot of people and most people don’t think twice about televisions in the family house all the time. That, a little bit more heavy-handed way at the beginning of the movie – that bus scene where the two kids are riding, there was a lot more stuff about people working on computers; it’s beautiful outside in the middle of Seattle, the mountains are incredible, the mist and all that stuff – and all people can do is watch their video screens, or listening to music, or stare off into space.

    Staring off into space is pretty much analogous with looking out of a bus window at the pretty trees, Bob. I too like looking at pretty things, and it definitely makes me momentarily happy, but working on a laptop, playing a handheld game, or surfing the net is a form of interaction far deeper than passively staring at stuff. The mind is working, not idling. Still, I do think he believes in what he's talking about, even though I think he's horribly wrong. Moving on, I especially like how he rationalises making horror movies and then railing against modern civilisation.
    So, am I worried about humanity? Well, I am worried about humanity, but there’s more to it than that, and this does make you count after a while when you don’t recognize this stuff. When I was making Nightmare on Elm Street, I had two daughters, who at that time were 10-12 years old; and I actually showed them early cuts of the movie – ‘Is this scary? Do you like this?’ They gave me good ideas and they were really delightful. When I came home after work, I would turn on the television and the news would be on, and they would get up and walk out of the room, every time; and it finally dawned on me what was going on – it was just too bloody scary.

    Or, as Canyon pointed out, it's because the news is horribly boring to a teenager. Yes, Bob, even your brainy kids. To be honest, fair enough. I do not hold to the theory that modern culture and media are responsible for the alienation of children and the breakdown of society, so I'll give him a break on that (especially as some of my favourite movies are on that New Line list), but his complaints about technology are ill-served by the movie. He seems to think they're part of the reason our society is so fractured, but anyone who uses the internet on a regular basis, and interacts with people over it, knows what a wonderful connective technology it is. One of the movie's utopian ideas is that eventually we will become telepathic. Great! Less strain on our vocal chords. Otherwise, it would bring people together in much the same way that the internet does now.

    But people who use the internet are not interacting with the people around them, I hear you cry (using my telepathy)! Fine by me. When I'm at work and using the internet to communicate with people, that's because I don't want to talk to the people around me. Better than any form of communication yet devised, the internet brings people with similar interests or mindsets together, and that's a wonderful, inclusive, joyous thing, and being done via a laptop or iPhone or Nintendo DS doesn't make it any less valid. Canyon and I know all about this, having met online.

    What's worse is that no matter how cleverly the objects sent from the future are made to look like natural objects (slivers of crystalline mica, sea-shells with crystals embedded in them, floating rocks), they're still forms of technology. Human potential appears to be unlocked in a New Agey way, but how much of that is because of the presence of the technology? Will the kids keep their powers once the tech is sent back to the future? Even if they do, it's all down to the machines we make. Worry all you like about technology, but right now, email and message boards and talkbacks and online gaming (yes, even the kind where 12 year olds call me a faggot and then teabag me) bring us together. Sorry, personal bugbear. I'll move on now.

    Oh, and that future tech is used to fix those awful problems and save the world. So how can he really hate it? Right, sorry, now I'll move on.

    Thanks to all of this research, I realise now that Shaye and Rubin and Emmerich really seem to believe in what they are doing, and have committed themselves to sending a message, using the film to teach kids about New Age philosophy in much the same way the artifacts teach the kids. Creepy, but I guess they're honest about it. Shaye in particular is very happy with the idea of a child's tear saving the world, an idea so schmaltzy it could actually kill a person. I'm serious. His explanation of why that was included is almost more entertaining than the film itself.
    So, that is ultimately what this is about; is it possible, and it happens to be scientifically feasible, that there are a set of genes that actually together are responsible for behavior that we would call innocence. And there is good scientific evidence that there very well might be; and as we do carry junk DNA around in our body, nobody knows what this is doing there – this is DNA that doesn’t operate, it doesn’t turn on other genes, it doesn’t do anything. They don’t know what that DNA used to do, and it is possible that over time, whatever the kind of ‘quote, innocence, unquote’ that we carry around us today, because of disuse, they may ultimately turn off, and that’s the underlying theme.

    An interesting story, I don’t know if it’s press worthy, but I’ll tell you anyhow; so, the little voice over at the end where the teacher is talking about Emma’s tears and all that stuff, there was a line in the film that ‘The precious gene of innocence was returned to humanity.’ It may be a little overly arch, but notwithstanding that; so at the last test screening, when we were in the middle of mixing the film, it got very good test reactions. They said, the guy who was running the test, the focus group, how many people rated the film ‘excellent’ – I don’t know, half the group did; how many rated it ‘very good,’ and another third, and how many rated it ‘good,’ and that’s what they would get. So just to sort of get a perspective on what’s going on, he asked one of the guys who rated it very good, ‘Why didn’t you rate it excellent,’ cause that’s what they do. He said, ‘I was about to rate it excellent, until that teacher, or who ever it was, talked about the gene of innocence; I said enough of that stuff.’ So we actually went into the mixing studio the next day and took the line out and changed it. So as I said, it’s a fine line to tell a story, but not really tell the story; but I do believe we are getting isolated, more and more isolated.

    Ignoring the fact that someone with Shaye's fierce reputation is worrying about other people losing their childlike viewpoint is a bit rich, I guess even the most committed of storytellers will be afraid to go all out and just use phrases like "Gene of Innocence" in their movies, but I'm quite pleased that Shaye thought that idea was important but was willing to not use it because of a test screening. If he had ignored it, after using test screenings to judge his studio's movies, I would have cried havoc and let slip the Dogs of War (they're outside right now, in the Kennel of War, chewing on a Bonio Dog Biscuit of War).

    So, I find myself in an odd position, tentatively welcoming a personal vision of the world from a bunch of multi-millionaires who would normally be considered to be the enemy of personal visions, and in one case has been instrumental in screwing over a filmmaker who just wanted to know how much money his movies had made (which is not exactly advanced future ethics at play there). A project like this that is willing to run as counter-programming to the Christian monopoly over message movies is rare enough, but I guess when you're as rich as Croesus and have a studio at your beck and call you can make whatever the hell you want. Shame The Golden Compass had its balls removed though, eh Bob?

    So what about the film itself? It qualifies as occasionally intriguing sci fi even though it often feels like a mixture of ideas from other better works, but is it actually any good? For the most part, no. The performances are quite indifferent (and the kids are not that well handled by Shaye), though I enjoyed watching Wilson and Hahn, who seemed to be the only cast members trying to force some life into the movie. It's also a strikingly ugly movie, lit poorly and blocked incompetently, with some scenes featuring a hand-held camera so badly operated that it masks what is going on and interferes with the tone being set.

    What makes that especially irksome is that the DoP is the usually excellent Jim Muro, whose work on Roll Bounce and Open Range was so impressive, and who was responsible for the classic horror-comedy Street Trash. For some reason, his work on this is murky and hard to watch. It annoyed me greatly. Even worse is the insipid and repetitive soundtrack by musical genius Howard Shore, whose work on the Lord of the Rings films was so beautiful, and whose ongoing collaboration with David Cronenberg is one of the most fruitful joint ventures in cinema history. His "discography" is littered with classics, and many a poor movie has been saved by his work. Here, however, I wanted to mute the movie.

    Horribly disappointing stuff, and that's before we get to the big song, Hello (I Love You) by Roger Waters. Quick disclosure: I hate Pink Floyd and cannot understand the appeal of their dreary prog noodlings. Only a couple of tracks from Dark Side of the Moon would get onto my iPod, and then I'd probably delete them after one listen and then hate myself for spending 79p on them. When I realised that Pink Floyd references kept cropping up throughout the movie I was annoyed, but as it seemed in keeping with the New Age ethos, I let it go. And then, over the credits, plays the most insipid piece of sentimental doggerel I've heard since Ringo Starr's Liverpool 8. Apologies if you feel compelled to click on this video and are rendered diabetic by the cloying sentiment within.

    That video encapsulates why I ended up not liking the movie. For all of the stuff I liked, and for all of the boldness of the concept (especially as this is meant to be a kids’ film), and ignoring the shoddiness of the filmmaking on show, the pompous and self-important tone of it was alienating. Didacticism in movies is bad enough when the thing you're being lectured about isn't even a concrete thing. Bitching to kids that playing games is no way to live your life is one thing (and as a gamer I resent that already), but not having anything to replace that is pretty rich. Is the film telling kids to put down their games and master the ability to warp reality? If so, is there something about today's youth that we don't know about? Screw knife crime, I want to make sure I don't get teleported into a volcano, Jumper-style.

    For a kids' film it's not very entertaining, and for adults it's too light, so it ends up pleasing no one, despite the positive things it has. Compare that to Joe Dante's Explorers, which features three kids getting dream messages that contain plans for a force-field generating circuit that, when plugged up to a PC and car battery, allows them to fly into space to meet the aliens who beamed the information to them. Whereas The Last Mimzy features desperate scientists contacting children to save the future, in Explorers the aliens are just teenagers who are bored, have stolen a spaceship from their dad, and are looking to make friends and watch TV with them. It's the tonal opposite to The Last Mimzy, and is flawed, but works beautifully anyway just by being so willfully odd and eager to flout convention.

    That said, there is one thing The Last Mimzy has over all of the films I've mentioned here: Rainn Wilson walking around in his pants!

    I'll let you decide if this is a good or a bad thing.

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