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'Mimzy' can't pull rabbit out of a hat

The 'E.T.'-esque science-fiction fantasy aimed at the younger set means well but is clumsily executed.

March 23, 2007|Michael Ordona | Special to The Times

"The Last Mimzy" is indeed a puzzler.

Being a "family film" may excuse many faults, considering the intended audience, but it's hard to think of a recent movie that has more determinedly married the engaging with the banal. In this genre the only important questions are, "Will the kids like it?" and "Is it good for them?" To which the answers to "Mimzy's" mysteries are "maybe" and "sort of." Adults are left to fend for themselves.

Among the sci-fi fantasy's interesting ideas: scientific interpretations of ancient Tibetan mandalas and "Through the Looking-Glass." Among those not-so-interesting ideas: a tepid critique of modern disconnection -- on a bus ride, the passengers all wear iPods or bury their noses in laptops -- and that love is the answer.

Young Seattle siblings (Chris O'Neil and Rhiannon Leigh Wryn) discover an intricate container of strange objects. Among these treasures is a stuffed rabbit ("Mimzy") that delivers messages in odd purrs to the 6-year-old girl. The kids display extraordinary abilities as they try to unlock the meaning of these "toys," aided by a groovy science teacher (Rainn Wilson of TV's "The Office") and his palm-reading girlfriend (Kathryn Hahn). Eventually the kids and their parents (Timothy Hutton and Joely Richardson) run afoul of a reluctant Homeland Security official (Michael Clarke Duncan). Poor Duncan: It's tough to understand what he's doing in this role and tougher still not to laugh at his final line.

For The Record
Los Angeles Times Friday March 30, 2007 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 2 National Desk 0 inches; 27 words Type of Material: Correction
'The Last Mimzy': The March 23 review in Calendar of the movie "The Last Mimzy" incorrectly attributed the score to James Horner. Howard Shore composed the music.

Luckily for the plot, the authorities have only one security camera and no guards to watch over terrorism suspects with inexplicable powers, setting up a chance for the kids to solve the objects' riddle and possibly save the world.

Co-written by Bruce Joel Rubin ("Ghost"), the movie is haunted by the spirit of "E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial" in more ways than already described but which would be unfair to detail here.

The film is clearly well-meaning but hampered by the heavy-handed direction of Robert Shaye (who's also the founder and head of New Line Cinema) and egregious use of James Horner's score, constantly cuing the warming of the heart. The kids' acting is uneven, but Wryn's high adorability quotient saves lines like, "I don't want the world to end. I love the world."

It also carries an eco-friendly message about pollutants, but does so with clumsy fingers. Says one child, "Why don't they do something? Why don't they stop it?"

To which the mellow teacher responds, " 'They' is all of us."

Best, perhaps, not to look too deeply into "The Last Mimzy."

"The Last Mimzy." MPAA rating: PG for some thematic elements, mild peril and language. Running time: 1 hour, 38 minutes. In general release.

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