It's hard to describe the details of The Last Mimzy's plot without sounding like someone recounting a crazy dream. See, there's this alien civilization in the future, and they send magical totems to the earth in the form of children's toys. Also involved: Lewis Carroll, his girlish muse, time travel, a bridge to outer space, spinning tops, geometric shapes, and a sentient rabbit doll. The Roger Waters song playing over the end credits gives the game away. New Line powerbroker/director Robert Shaye has made a children's film for stoners, a trippy, psychedelic fable that belongs in the DVD section of New Age bookstores alongside the strangely similar What The Fuck Do We Know?
Unsurprisingly, there's some classic science fiction behind all the trippy intergalactic weirdness. Adapted from the Lewis Padgett short story "Mimsy Were The Borogroves," the film centers on siblings Chris O'Neil and Rhiannon Leigh Wryn, who find a mysterious capsule from outer space whose contents give them supernatural powers. Though Wryn is already otherworldly, O'Neil makes a radical jump from brat to scientific super-genius. Alas, the duo's superpowers attract the unwanted attention of the FBI.
Though The Last Mimzy makes extensive use of CGI technology, it's endearingly old-fashioned in a way that's winning in a genre full of movies straining desperately to be hip and ironic. Like Steven Spielberg before him, Shaye grounds the film in an intentionally drab foundation of everyday life before ratcheting up the craziness. For a while, Mimzy cultivates a free-floating sense of wonder, as characters like Rainn Wilson's hippie teacher are sucked into O'Neil and Wryn's fantastical world. Unfortunately, that wonder gradually dissipates once the feds show up and the mind-spinning ridiculousness of the film's premise becomes thuddingly apparent. Mimzy can't sustain a sense of awe throughout, but it's nevertheless exciting to see a kids' film built on ideas as well as spectacle. Sure, those ideas are silly and spacey, but if Mimzy serves as a gateway drug that gets Shrek fans into classic science fiction, then it'll have performed an invaluable cultural service.