- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 22, 2007

A mysterious character called Mimsy or Mimzy has captivated many talented writers who have gradually built up its legend and back story into something quite magical.

After Lewis Carroll made the first reference in his 1872 nonsense poem “Jabberwocky” (part of the 1872 work “Through the Looking-Glass and What Alice Found There”), Lewis Padgett wove a sci-fi tale from the thread in 1943 called “Mimsy Were the Borogoves,” an account of two children who discover a box of toys from the future. This yarn caught producer Michael Phillips’ eye, leading to New Line Cinema’s current cinematic production of “The Last Mimzy,” the character’s most elaborate incarnation to date.

After 12 years, 19 drafts and five writers, the film has evolved into a sort of modern-day “E.T.” It’s not quite the classic that movie was, yet it does amass a similar array of themes, emotions and special effects that amount to a sweet lesson about childhood innocence and youngsters’ openness to making unlikely friends.

While on a family vacation near their Seattle home, siblings Noah (first-timer Chris O’Neil) and Emma Wilder (Rhiannon Leigh Wryn) discover an unusual box filled with enigmatic goodies: a glowing prismatic slab, a blue blob, rocks that miraculously spin midair, and a cuddly stuffed bunny (Mimzy) that endears itself to Emma.

The children begin to develop superhuman powers as they interact more with the objects. While Noah, for example, practices telekinesis and cultivates the ability to direct spiders’ web-weaving, Emma learns she can atomize her arm using the spinning rocks and listens as Mimzy talks to her.

Noah’s wild-eyed science teacher, Larry White (“The Office’s” Rainn Wilson), is alarmed by the fact that Noah’s been doodling ancient mandalas he has no knowledge of — the same ones Larry’s been dreaming about. Perhaps the universe is trying to tell him something important.

Meanwhile, the Wilder parents (Joely Richardson and Timothy Hutton) are also growing frightened by their progeny’s otherworldly behavior and eventually seek help — but the process is interrupted when Homeland Security locks up the whole clan for supposedly causing a massive, citywide blackout. (As suspected, one of the objects from the box caused it.)

Finally, when Emma and Noah eventually bust out of captivity, subplots start to merge and answers start arriving; don’t expect it all to come together until the very last moment, though. Director Bob Shaye (New Line founder) and his screenwriting team want to keep people guessing, and the movie’s quick pace and suspenseful thrust allows them to do so without anyone losing interest.

It may take a few minutes after the lights come up for audiences to digest it all, and the framing device may seem a bit forced (we’re not giving it away), but when it all sinks in, “Mimzy” provides a warm, fuzzy, family-friendly feel.

It doesn’t hurt any that the two young leads are everything child actors should be: natural, adorable and completely at ease. In fact, it kind of seems unfair that the adults get the lead billing when the focus, on paper as well as in practice, is clearly the Wilder offspring.

***

TITLE: “The Last Mimzy”

RATING: PG (Mild language and some thematic elements)

CREDITS: Directed by Bob Shaye. Written by Bruce Joel Rubin and Toby Emmerich. Loosely based on the short story by Lewis Padgett.

RUNNING TIME: 90 minutes

WEB SITE: www.mimzy.com

MAXIMUM RATING: FOUR STARS

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