The Last Mimzy
Most kids films these days are technically sophisticated CGI extravaganzas littered with knowing pop cultural references, product placement, and talking animals. Perfect if you're bringing up a brood of uppity junk-food devouring rodents (no comment).
The Last Mimzy has its share of whizzy special effects, but it's old-fashioned in a good way: it's a live action movie with a fantastic story about two youngsters, Noah (Chris O'Neil) and Emma (Rhiannon Leigh Wryn), who find a mysterious box on the beach.
Inside, there is some weird iridescent matter like something out of a Cronenberg flick, some scallop shells that levitate and spin around in the air, and a cuddly white rabbit: Mimzy. The kids keep this find to themselves, but their mom (Joely Richardson) begins to suspect something is up when Emma's babysitter runs out of the house screaming and Noah's science teacher (Rainn Wilson) declares him a genius. She's not alone. Homeland Security is zeroing in on their house after someone or something knocked out the power throughout the Seattle area.
Watching Bob Shaye's film, it's impossible not to think of an earlier movie about suburban kids sheltering a big secret from their family and the authorities, ET. (It also shares elements with Escape from Witch Mountain and Lilo and Stitch). Shaye - who is actually a studio boss, at New Line Pictures, though he has directed a couple of times before - is not in the Spielberg class, but it's pretty clear he made this film because he cared about it, not for the money.
That integrity comes through in a parable about pollution and sometimes rather earnest gobbits of West Coast Buddhist philosophy, though to be fair the script also pokes fun at its own holistic mantra (Wilson and Kathryn Hahn are exceptionally good value as the teacher and his palm-reading girlfriend).
The original short story ('Mimsy Were the Borogroves', by the pseudonymous Lewis Padgett) is some 60 years-old and reportedly a darker experience. Not having read it, I don't begrudge the more optimistic spin placed on the material by Shaye and his team of screenwriters (they include the writers of Ghost, Contact and Frequency). The climax sorely misses the visual uplift you get when Elliott and ET cycle into the sky, but in a way the film's modesty is part of its charm. This was never going to be a blockbuster, but it's going to be a good solid rental for families with kids in the 7-12 range.