CAPSULE: A box of toys from the future transforms a young brother and sister into something beyond human. Only one or two ideas were taken from the Lewis Padgett story "Mimsy Were the Borogroves," supposedly the source of the story. The film becomes a sort of low-budget variation on E.T. with a lackluster rag-doll bunny standing in for E.T. The film may work better on the small screen than in theaters. Rating: +1 (-4 to +4) or 6/10
Lewis Padgett was a pen name used by the husband-and-wife writing team of Henry Kuttner and C. L. Moore. Though both were noted science fiction writers in their own right, together they created the third writer Padgett. In 1943 they published what would prove to be one of their most popular stories "Mimsy Were the Borogroves". In that story two contemporary children discover a box of educational toys from the far future. These toys are far beyond their contemporary technology. There is an abacus with beads on wires that seemingly go into other dimensions and a doll that teaches internal anatomy. But the toys also modify the children's thought patterns to something alien. Most of the story is a conversation by adults on how the child's mind works and how alien it can be to the adult mind. The Lewis Carroll poem referred to in the title is used as an example of the result of inscrutable alien thinking. The written story is really seen from the point of view of adults and the intended reading audience is adult. Robert Shaye, usually a film producer, has made a children's film loosely based on this story.
One or two of the original ideas made it into Robert Shaye's film adaptation of the story, THE LAST MIMZY. The point of view mostly moves to the children who are given special powers by the toys in a mystical manner. In the adaptation, the slightly understandable educational toys are turned into what are basically tools of magic. One of which is what appears on the surface to be a rabbit rag doll named Mimzy. Another toy is a collection of rocks that obey mental commands. Chris O'Neil and Rhiannon Leigh Wryn play Noah and Emma Wilder, brother and sister who on a vacation in the Seattle area find a box with mysterious toys that we have been told has been sent back from the far future. It is not entirely clear how these toys are educational, but the effects soon are obvious. Noah finds he has the ability to control spiders with sound and uses it to create a nifty science fair project, perhaps worthy of a Nobel Prize. Emma finds she has telekinetic powers over rocks from the box. And she gets the rabbit doll Mimzy who talks to her in funny sounds, but which has in phenomenal fund of knowledge. Soon adults get involved. Not long afterward the government finds out that something strange is going on and moves in to investigate.
James V. Hart and Carol Skilken are credited with reworking the Padgett story so it could be filmed, with Bruce Joel Rubin and Toby Emmerich writing the screenplay from that story. Rubin wrote JACOB'S LADDER, GHOST, and a personal favorite of mine--at least the first two thirds of it--BRAINSTORM. Toby Emmerich wrote a reasonably good science fiction film, FREQUENCY. That is writing talent, but the story is just a little too much like E.T. THE EXTRA-TERRESTRIAL on a pinchpenny special-effects budget. The rag doll bunny Mimzy just does not have enough personality to really make the audience care for her (him?). The film also takes a turn for some New Age mysticism that complicates the story line but adds little.
The changing of the children, which in the story was at least distressing, is handled in the film as if it is magical and wonderful. The story does have some charm, and if the characters are not fully three-dimensional, they are at least more than one-dimensional. Of particular note is a somewhat overweight babysitter. Now usually (and all too often) such a character would be used for a little comic relief. In this film she endearingly talks to Emma like an equal and is presented positively. A Homeland Security official (played by Michael Clarke Duncan in an ill-fitting suit) may not seem to adults like he is completely competent, but he also seems to have his decent side. The bewildered parents are played by Joely Richardson (of "Nip/Tuck") and Timothy Hutton.
With only a light whiff of the original story this film should be enjoyable enough for children, but will perhaps be not quite enough to enthuse their parents. This is more a children's film than a family film. I rate THE LAST MINZY a +1 on the -4 to +4 scale or 6/10.
A list of sources for the original story can be found at: http://www.isfdb.org/cgi-bin/title.cgi?189840
Film Credits: http://us.imdb.com/title/tt0768212/
Mark R. Leeper firstname.lastname@example.org Copyright 2007 Mark R. Leeper