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The Last Mimzy DVD Review

The Last Mimzy (2007) movie poster - click to buy The Last Mimzy

Theatrical Release: March 23, 2007 / Running Time: 96 Minutes / Rating: PG

Director: Bob Shaye

Cast: Joely Richardson (Jo Wilder), Timothy Hutton (David Wilder), Michael Clarke Duncan (Nathanial Broadman), Rainn Wilson (Larry White), Kathryn Hahn (Naomi Schwartz), Chris O'Neil (Noah Wilder), Rhiannon Leigh Wryn (Emma Wilder), Kirsten Williamson (Sheila Broadman), Irene Snow (Teacher in Meadow), Marc Musso (Harry Jones)

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Both the front and back covers of The Last Mimzy's DVD case make reference, in critic's quotes, to E.T.. Steven Spielberg's 1982 blockbuster is also alluded to in the cover's imagery, which features a messy-haired boy, a cute younger sister, and a full moon that, if seen in whole, you'd suspect of backing the silhouette of an airborne two-passenger bicycle. The public's initial response to the two films could not be more different. With a $350 million domestic intake, E.T. became the highest-grossing movie in history. It also picked up dozens of award nominations and, 25 years later, is considered one of the greatest and most significant films ever made. The Last Mimzy earned just over $21 million in the US and a tiny fraction of that overseas, while gathering a pretty evenly-divided mix of reviews.

Still, the comparison works. A contemporary fairy tale, The Last Mimzy seems inspired by E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial in its themes, tone, and execution. That is not to say that Mimzy joins the class of well-received recent films (The Iron Giant, Lilo & Stitch) that essentially recycle E.T.'s plot. Mimzy has a story of its own, one which was published a few years before Spielberg and E.T. writer Melissa Mathison were born.
Husband-wife sci-fi writers Henry Kuttner and C.L. Moore penned the short story Mimsy Were the Borogoves for a 1943 issue of Astounding Science Fiction Magazine. Their title, borrowed from the third line of Lewis Carroll's famous Jabberwocky poem, reveals another source of inspiration in the flexible, fantastic universe of Carroll's and Alice's Wonderland.

In design, Mimzy is much closer to E.T. than Alice in Wonderland. For Easter vacation, 10-year-old video game and gadget enthusiast Noah Wilder (Chris O'Neil), his imaginative younger sister Emma (Rhiannon Leigh Wryn), their lonesome mother (Joely Richardson) and eventually their overworked lawyer father (Timothy Hutton) take a trip to the family's Whidbey Island beach house not far from their Seattle home. In their first venture to the shore, Noah and Emma discover an unusual box floating by the sand. Some of what's inside, like a crystal slate that's constantly working out countless complex designs, appears not to be of this world. Other items -- rocks, a sea shell, and a stuffed white rabbit doll -- are ordinary in appearance, but extraordinary in the sensory delights they offer. For example, the bunny, which Emma dubs Mimzy and quickly befriends, makes garbled noises that she is able to comprehend as genuine living communication.

Against a lens flare, Emma (Rhiannon Leigh Wryn) and her big brother Noah (Chris O'Neil) examine the strange parcel they've found on the beach. Joely Richardson and Oscar winner Timothy Hutton portray the present but perfunctory Wilder parents.

The new playthings occupy Noah and Emma enough to yield a decrease in family time, and their experiences soon have drastic effects. Noah is able to envision and realize a radical science project that's practically guaranteed recognition at a national level. He also begins drawing complex geometric patterns which his science teacher Mr. White (Rainn Wilson) recognizes as the mandalas that have been turning up in his own dreams. Meanwhile, Emma unleashes a magic trick -- using newfound telekinetic powers -- that has one babysitter running scared.

Like Richard Dreyfuss' mashed potatoes, the remarkable abilities spawned by the young siblings' beach finds, are, according to Mr. White and his palm-reading fiancée Naomi (Kathryn Hahn), trying to tell them something important. Whatever it may be, the message becomes strained when a team of armed FBI agents led by Nathanial Broadman (Michael Clarke Duncan) show up at the Wilder house and take the family into custody in conjunction with a widespread Pacific Northwest blackout being treated as a terrorist act.

The Last Mimzy captivates viewers with its fascinating, enigmatic premise, which is unwrapped with sincerity and seriousness that is endearingly old-fashioned next to many of today's breathless, sarcasm-heavy family films. It is the type of story which is sure to excite and intrigue kids, keep parents involved, and not reinforce non-parents' decision not to breed. Fantasy films, especially live-action ones, often face many possibilities to disappoint those, who lacking kids of their own, aren't forgiving towards poorly-rendered child characters that can be deemed thin or cartoonishly clever. Last Mimzy doesn't falter in this department, as Noah and Emma have the same kind of ordinary, real-world appeal of Elliott and Gertie. Labeling this a "family film" does it a bit of a disservice to those who aren't warmed to the genre, for The Last Mimzy's appeal is fairly universal.

Palm reader Naomi (Kathryn Hahn) and science teacher Larry (Rainn Wilson) are a quirky, hippie-ish engaged couple that's convinced there's meaning behind Noah and Emma's new gifts. Michael Clarke Duncan plays FBI agent Nathanial Broadman, who's investigating the Wilders in the name of homeland security. A clever incorporation of an established present-day technology brand or mere product placement? You decide.

One of New Line Cinema's two founders/CEOs, Robert Shaye steps into the director's chair for only his second feature and does a very capable job of keeping the film pleasantly in between passé sentimentality and hip, intertextuality-loaded jadedness.

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Much of the credit should go to writers Bruce Joel Rubin (Ghost) and Toby Emmerich (a producer whose only previous script was 2000's Frequency), who along with screen-story-credited veteran James V. Hart and newcomer Carol Skilken, do an admirable job of updating Kuttner and Moore's short story without gutting its soul.

Some may find the depiction of technology-dependent modern society a bit heavy-handed. Others might proclaim the film's messages jumbled, its New Age values lacking, its ultimate destination unsatisfying. These are legitimate concerns and though I can't say they particularly bothered me, I can only speak for myself. The narrative is also somewhat choppy and for all the mystery that remains for most of the film, there's a lot of sitting around and giving possible exposition.

The cast does a nice job with the material, especially the inexperienced leads O'Neil and Wryn. They're not the type of kids who seem destined for a long, busy Hollywood career, if only because they're too convincingly normal and down to earth, precisely the type of qualities the characters call for. Richardson and Hutton are fine in the parent roles, though they're not given much to chew on. Wilson (Dwight from NBC's "The Office") is solid and sometimes funny as the hip, messy, ear-pierced science teacher, and he's well-matched with Hahn. Duncan brings something to the table too, and the government authorities he represents have a believable presence here as terms like "homeland security" and "Patriot Act" are relevantly tossed around. These agents even wield guns rather than walkie talkies.

Buy The Last Mimzy: Widescreen Infinifilm DVD from Amazon.com DVD Details

2.35:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
(1.33:1 Reformatted Fullscreen Sold Separately)
Dolby Digital 5.1 EX (English),
Dolby Surround (English)
Subtitles: None; Closed Captioned
Release Date: July 10, 2007
Single-sided, dual-layered disc (DVD-9)
Suggested Retail Price: $28.98
Black Keepcase with Embossed Cardboard Slipcover


The Last Mimzy is presented in its 2.35:1 theatrical aspect ratio and enhanced for 16x9 televisions. (A reformatted fullscreen edition is available separately.) Though the movie has some old-fashioned sensibilities in storytelling, it looks the part of a 2007 feature film visually, with frequently moving photography, top-notch effects, and picture quality that exhibits no noticeable shortcomings.

In the sound department, the movie is treated to Dolby Digital 5.1 EX and Dolby Surround tracks in its native English tongue. It is perhaps the strangest sound mix one is ever able to encounter with Mimzy's garblings and other foreign sounds featuring prominently. The design is appropriately fantastic, with terrific atmosphere maintained throughout and more specific action engulfing in sensible ways. The menus make a point of clarifying that the audio has been remastered for the optimal DVD experience, so the reasonable peaks and valleys in dynamics are clearly deliberate. Though capably conveyed, Howard Shore's score is both overdramatic and overpresent enough to qualify it as an uncharacteristic detriment.

In one of three interactive challenges, viewers get to recreate a "Spider Bridge" piece by piece. Dwight K. Schrute points to you as you have the power to leave the movie for some brief time-relevant extras in the infinifilm Fact Track. Lewis Carroll expert Mark Burstein talks about the story's connection to another fantastic literary predecessor in "The Looking Glass: Emma and Alice."


The Last Mimzy comes to DVD as part of New Line's infinifilm line. If you're not used to this treatment, which has been applied to twelve other films over the past six years, the disc's design and layout can be somewhat confounding at first. Alas, every menu offers a "?" button which takes to through a series of relevant text screens that explain anything and everything in more detail than you can imagine. Selecting the Main Menu's "need help?" entry eventually takes you to a basic text listing of all bonus features if you're overwhelmed by the unusual breakdown that's standard for the series.

The lone supplement which merits a main menu listing all to itself is "Interactive Challenge", which in reality is three set-top activities, each with three levels. "Spider Bridge", the most difficult, asks players to use 8 on-screen directional keys to create an elaborate web pattern which matches the one depicted.
"Memory Match" presents a series of cards with different colors and designs on them. After ten seconds of studying the layout of 3, then 6, then 9 cards, it quizzes you on the location of a specific one. "Mandala Mix-Up" also tests memory, as players must identify which fourth of a colorful mandala pattern remains identical to the image first shown. Even more than memory, close, careful viewing of the transition is rewarded. Overall, these games boast some intellectual value and offer something different on return visits. Puzzle-liking kids should enjoy them and even adults can find themselves challenged.

As an infinifilm DVD, most of the remaining bonus features can be experienced in one of two ways. The infinifilm Fact Track times relevant behind-the-scenes detours to a repeat viewing of the film, so that deleted scenes can be viewed in the context of where they'd be, featurettes tackle concepts of the film as they arise, and so on. For those who don't feel the need to see "it all" or who can't stand any extra longer than about 2 minutes, the track is a nice way to select bite-sized pieces of background or making-of information as connected to each section of the film. It does, however, require watching the film in full, something that might be hard to do if you're regularly reading the options of bonuses to jump to. The best way to experience the infinifilm playback is probably to team it up with the audio commentary, thus getting a robust, very screen-specific supplement package without any strong temptation to try to follow along with dialog and the narrative.

If you prefer viewing bonus features in the conventional stand-alone way, the DVD has you covered in this way too. The featurettes can be slightly choppy, due to the clean-cut excerpts used for infinifilm.
But they're patched together in a comprehensive fashion thanks to an impressive, wide roster of interview subjects.

The first of two sections into which the remaining bonuses are divided, Beyond the Movie Features tend to be shorter and more specific to ideas and topics of the film than to the film's creation itself. Each brief vignette includes remarks from a number of expert speakers. In "The Mandala: Imaginary Palace" (5:48), professors, psychologists, and lamas give a heady discussion on the significance and meaning of the spiritual symbols. "The Looking Glass: Emma and Alice" (2:35) - compares The Last Mimzy protagonist to Alice Lidell, the real girl who inspired Lewis Carroll's curious heroine, with Carroll experts commenting. "Sound Waves: Listening to the Universe" (6:20) has sound designer Dane Davis revealing facts about the movie's unique aural elements, while professors discuss spiders' hearing and sound travel at large. The scientific "DNA: The Human Blueprint" (4:05) naturally covers the genetic code inside people and the part it plays. "Nanotechnology: The Human Revolution" (3:10) informs one of the practical present-day uses of nanotechnology in items like car tires and sunscreen. Closing the section, "Wormholes: Fantasy or Science?" (4:18) ponders the hypothetical space-time shortcut and the limitations faced by those studying them.

New Line founder/CEO Bob Shaye directs a floating girl in this part of his profile video. Shaye also contributes an audio commentary. In this audition tape footage from "Casting the Kids", actors Chris O'Neil and Rhiannon Leigh Wryn are even younger than they appear in the film. Timothy Hutton and Joely Richardson are among the adult actors who had some work in "The Last Mimzy" end up on the cutting room floor. Their bedtime bickering is one of eleven deleted/extended scenes provided.

All Access Pass Features holds longer, more movie-specific supplements, beginning with half a dozen featurettes. "The Last Mimzy: Adapting the Story" (13:50) satisfactorily covers the 12-year development period, as well as inspirations of and variations to the source text. "Bob Shaye: Director Profile" (8:55) is a tribute to the New Line honcho, with favorable remarks aplenty and much footage of him in action on Mimzy. "Casting the Kids" (7:08) tackles the process of selecting the two leads, with recollections from the young O'Neil and Wryn, their co-stars, and the crew; the piece benefits from quite a bit of audition tape footage.

Moving onto more technical filmmaking aspects, "Production Design and Concept Art" (4:05) finds production designer Barry Johnson and director Shaye narrating concept artwork and imagery from the film with their observations. "'Real is Good': The Visual Effects" (8:10) discusses Last Mimzy's illusions, namely how they differed from effects in other films, with tech guy talk and some breakdowns of effects shots in various stages. "Editing and Music" (13:08) serves up a earnest, kid-friendly overview of the editing and scoring processes especially as they pertain to Mimzy; different cuts of sequences are compared, technical terms are defined on-screen, and the concluding moments deal with Roger Waters' song contribution and music video ideas.

A collection of eleven Deleted/Alternate Scenes runs 13 minutes and 22 seconds altogether. There's nothing outstanding or glaringly weak among the content, most of which extends scenes of adults talking. Director Bob Shaye offers a 30-second introduction and an optional commentary over the deletions. The latter is especially revealing, as he clearly resents some of the cuts made in response to test audience objections and notes that digitally adding leopard print underwear over Rainn Wilson's distant bare butt (presented blurred here) cost $10,000 and wasn't necessary to secure a PG rating.

Somewhat buried is a Feature Audio Commentary by director Bob Shaye. Shaye is very easy to listen to; he speaks with clarity and authority about what's on-screen, covering both the "how" things were achieved and "why." He points out some interesting little tidbits, though only speaks when he has something worth saying, which makes the track polished and professional, but with a number of dead spaces. Audience response is probably the most prominent theme of Shaye's discussion, which is quite lively for a solo track, as he remarks repeatedly on test audience comments and even welcomes e-mail feedback as the end credits roll.

Former Pink Floyd member Roger Waters rocks out in his music video for "Hello (I Love You)", an original song not to be confused with The Doors' hit. With the DVD-ROM's Interactive Viewing Experience, one can search for lines, learn about the Patriot Act, and watch the movie all at the same time. With crystal shards, geometric shapes, and a mandala cursor, this animated Main Menu hits all the right notes.

The music video for "Hello (I Love You)" (4:34) finds former Pink Floyd guitarist Roger Waters performing this end credits theme. The song rocks harder than what you'd expect of a family film tune

More movie posters, photos, and memorabilia
and it's probably more likely to please parents or even grandparents than kids, with its references to Floyd albums and raspy, spacey, semi-psychedelic sound. The video mixes montages of scenes from the movie with sound studio footage of Waters, who is at one point joined by composer Howard Shore and, curiously, actress Rhiannon Leigh Wryn.

Under the listing "Trailers", we find The Last Mimzy's 2½-minute theatrical trailer, plus a collection of sneak peeks for other Warner/New Line properties. The latter serves up the two disc-launching previews (upcoming musical Hairspray's theatrical trailer and a TMNT DVD promo) in addition to 30-second DVD commercials for Hoot, The Lord of the Rings Trilogy, and How to Eat Fried Worms, and a 1-minute pitch for this fall's direct-to-video 'toon Superman: Doomsday.

Finally, there are some DVD-ROM extras, which years of underwhelming content had me skeptical would be even worth checking out. Yes, this one has the obligatory promotional weblinks to the official websites of the movie, the studio, and the infinifilm DVD line. It also has something more worthwhile called Interactive Viewing Experience (IVEX) which delivers another enhanced playback method for those willing and able to watch the movie on a computer. Perhaps the content being offered isn't revolutionary, but the presentation is. As the movie plays in a window, you can browse (or get treated to a slideshow of) relevant production images, follow along with a transcript of dialog, and most neatly, search for any word or phrase in the screenplay and instantly jump to that moment. (The possibilities are endless; I learned there were 43 utterances of the word "Mimzy" in the film.) Occasionally during movie playback, the lower window is used to provide some additional information on either a mentioned concept or a filmmaker.

Like other infinifilm DVDs, the menus here can be pretty intimidating but they're rather expertly designed. The selection screens boast some nice touches, such as reasonably accurate bonus runtimes and appropriate animation, while not succumbing to design shortcomings like maddeningly-looped score samples or excessive load times.

The DVD shows an extra bit of effort in its packaging too, which makes the wise, rare decision to utilize the extra space afforded by the obligatory slipcover to feature some variations in text and images. Disappointingly, no insert or booklet is included in the DVD, outside of a promotional sheet which doubles as a coupon for $10 off admission for up to 6 people at Legoland California. At least, the chapter selections menu on the disc is remarkably detailed.

Noah and Emma marvel at their up close and personal telekinetic display. It's just a spider, man!


The Last Mimzy is a good, not quite great, film which savvily blends a classic science fiction mentality with a present-day setting in bringing a compelling 64-year-old story to the screen. This imperfect but highly involving fantasy is among a rare class of modern cinema, as a family film which is able to delight teens and adults as much as, or maybe even more than, the kids that are also targeted with the PG design.

New Line's DVD is about as loaded as can be found for a single-disc release. Whether you appreciate the infinifilm branding and presentation or not, you're treated to nearly two hours of bonus features, plus no less than three unique ways (fact track, commentary, enhanced DVD-ROM) of revisiting the film in the future. The supplemental slate deserves praise not just for quantity but for quality, as just about any imaginable ground of relevance is sufficiently tread. Plus, as is typical but not always the case for a new studio film, picture and sound are dazzling.

As a film, The Last Mimzy deserves to be seen and DVD should provide a proper opportunity for the majority of folks who missed it in theaters to discover it. As a DVD, this release leaves little to be desired. Those with a soft spot for sci-fi, fantasy, and family films would be safe to buy this disc sight unseen, whereas more skeptical viewers would be wise to rent first. Either way, though, this still garners a moderate recommendation.

More on the DVD / Buy from Amazon.com / The Book: The Last Mimzy Stories by Henry Kuttner

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Reviewed July 7, 2007.

Text copyright 2007 UltimateDisney.com. Images copyright 2007 New Line Cinema and Home Entertainment. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.