- The Washington Times - Saturday, March 24, 2007

Common Sense Media, a nonprofit group dedicated to improving the entertainment lives of families, provides reviews of the latest movies from a parenting perspective. For more reviews, click on commonsensemedia.org.

‘The Last Mimzy’

Rating: PG for some thematic elements, mild peril and language.

Common Sense Media: On. For ages 8 and older.

*** (out of five stars)

Running time: 94 minutes

Common Sense review: Children will like the premise of the indie sci-fi movie “The Last Mimzy”: Ten-year-old Noah Wilder and his younger sister Emma discover a mysterious box off the shore of their beach house. Inside are strange toys that make the children telekinetic, hyperintelligent and able to communicate with an old stuffed rabbit. What child wouldn’t want such a cool adventure?

But with great alienlike toys come great problems. Noah (Chris O’Neil) accidentally causes a major power outage that, in the age of homeland security concerns, is perceived as a terrorist attack. Emma (the doe-eyed Rhiannon Leigh Wryn) not only communes with Mimzy (the rabbit), but learns from him and calls him her teacher.

Some of his teachings include how to levitate, atomize her body parts and thoroughly freak out her parents — clueless overworked dad David (Timothy Hutton) and understandably alarmed mom Jo (Joely Richardson).

Rainn Wilson (Dwight from “The Office”) co-stars as Noah’s Zenned-out science teacher, Larry, who, along with his New Agey fiancee, Naomi (Kathryn Hahn), applies understanding of Southeast Asian beliefs to convince the Wilders that their children aren’t just gifted — they’re borderline superhuman. When David and Jo finally believe (the children act as if they’re under a G-rated possession) the FBI swoops in and places the whole family in a testing facility.

Just what the Wilder children are destined to do with their supernatural-seeming toys involves facilitating a wormhole for a weak Mimzy to travel through. Though “The Last Mimzy” may seem kind of hokey — and even frightening — to some adults, elementary school children are likely to be enchanted.

Common Sense note: Parents need to know that despite its whimsical title, this fantasy adventure incorporates many sci-fi elements that may frighten sensitive children. It’s unclear whether the mysterious toys the children find are alien, from the past or future, good or evil.

Mimzy (a talking stuffed rabbit) speaks in a buzzing whisper that only Emma can hear, and the toy’s many close-ups border on the menacing: Just what does the white rabbit want?

Ultimately, it’s a harmless fantasy, but some scenes featuring the strange devices can be creepy, even for adults.

Families can talk about the film’s many fantasy elements. How is it similar to or different from other sci-fi and fantasy movies? How do you feel about the idea of toys having a strange effect on children? Why are children often misunderstood or dismissed in movies?

Sexual content: Mom and Dad kiss hello and goodbye. Larry is shown getting out of bed in a T-shirt and briefs; he and his fiancee kiss, and then she makes an innuendo-filled comment: “Is this what we’re doing now?”

Language alert: Minor curse words.

Violence alert: Some disturbing images: FBI agents storm into the Wilder home and take the entire family into custody; Emma “atomizes” her hand and face and then shakes. Mimzy whispers in an eerie buzz, and some close-ups of the stuffed animal and the other mysterious toys are downright creepy. Emma is in danger during an important scene.

Commercialism alert: Heavily featured product placements: The parents drive a Subaru Outback and Mercedes sedan; Noah makes a Sprite can move with his mind; the “Intel” logo is pivotal to the film’s resolution; IMacs, IPods, Sony plasma TVs, video games and more all get screen time.

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