When a brother and sister discover a strange box they are unwittingly thrust into key roles in a story spanning centuries and wherein the future is at stake. Inside the box are several strange items, all of which prove to have magical properties, but for a purpose that they themselves must discover. Along the way, the two must overcome a government anti-terrorism unit which mistakes their activities for terrorist acts and find help from some unlikely places. The Last Mimzy, directed by Robert Shaye, is a movie aimed at children. But unlike the best of children’s movies, like E.T. and The Little Mermaid, this one is likely to fall flat with adults.

It doesn’t suffer from a lack of potentially appealing elements, but it does fail to utilize them properly. For instance, the discovery of what the magical items do is interesting enough, and we later find out that their powers are needed for something of tremendous scope and importance. That would fall under the category of “upping the ante”, which means it belongs in the second act. Unfortunately, this vital piece of information is saved for the very last bit, during the actual climax itself, and so any thrilling effect it might have had earlier in the movie is lost. Instead, the movie focuses on the children getting familiar with the magic objects, which is fine for the beginning, but never gives us the urgency that could have come with revealing said information earlier.

Another area where the movie misfires is with respect to the antagonist. We must assume that this role is filled by Michael Clarke Duncan’s Nathanial Broadman, though he never completely rises to the challenge of chief villain and antagonist. In his first scene, we learn from some very tedious dialogue that is painfully obviously meant for the audience’s sake that Nathanial has recently accepted a high post in the Department of Homeland Security (sic). The rudiments of some character development are presented, but like so many other roles in the movie we are denied a complete and satisfying character arc. Indeed, multiple characters move in and out of the story, often leading one to believe that they are there for some purpose and will provide some kind of effect or meaning to the story, but very few actually do. One is tempted to think they should be cut altogether, but doing so would leave the movie with precious few characters at all. What is needed, rather, is some more development, and a reworking of the story to better fit them in.

Apart from the misused and underdeveloped elements, the director proves himself unready to helm a feature film. The camera work and shot coverage is little better than one would expect from a Soap Opera, with the occasional and jarring Dutch angle thrown in for no discernible purpose. Furthermore, there is too much forced drama in scenes which cannot bear such dramatic weight. A tense conversation that slowly escalates until erupting into a tearful shouting match might be good drama, but only if the script can support it. A character cannot suddenly grow angry, or break down into frustrated tears at moments which just don’t call for it. The Last Mimzy is full of such odd reactions and curious behavior and one suspects that it was demanded by the director merely to give the appearance of real drama.

The movie is not a complete failure. The central idea is neat, it fits in well with every child’s dream of being an important figure in a magical story and kids probably won’t care about the finer points of drama and plot management. But adults may be left wishing they had just rented E.T. instead.

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