Actor/director/producer Jillian Boshart makes her 10YA debut with The Last Mimzy. She dares you to count how many times she uses the word “mandala” in this re-view.
In late 2016 I was very sick and casting about for something to watch as I lay on the couch. Comcast’s On Demand services presented me with a list of Free-To-Me movies, one of which was the “children’s movie” (more on that later) The Last Mimzy, which I sort of remembered seeing many years prior. I presented the trailer to my husband Jacob saying, “Do you want to watch this truly terrible children’s film? It has Rainn Wilson’s bare ass.”
You see, Jacob has a beautiful soft spot for terrible movies. His sense of humor is deeply informed by late night Surge-fueled Mystery Science Theatre 3000 marathons during his teen years. The trailer hooked him. He was ready for a trip down terrible movie lane. The joy it would bring him!
What a fool.
Yesterday, barely recovered from our viewing three months prior, Jacob and I sat down to re-re-view this shit for my very first 10YA. I hope you enjoy our descent into Mimzy Madness.
Alright. Here we go. Fuck.
The Last Mimzy opens with a lovely overhead shot of children scampering through a field of wildflowers. The Flower Children are gathering flowers and arranging them into a mandala, which they then sit around as their teacher calls them to class. The teacher then invites the children to ‘all tune in together’ and begins communicating with The Flower Children telepathically, because the director really wants us to know that mandalas are magic and so are children.
Anyway, the teacher then takes 30 seconds to try to tell us what this movie is about. Unfortunately, this moment zips by so quickly, and the mythology of the story is so bat-shit-nutso, that a viewer cannot actually internalize any of this information. I’ve seen this movie three times, and I still had to look up this scene on YouTube and watch it about five more times to even try to summarize for you. I couldn’t do it. Instead, I just transcribed the scene:
“A long time ago the soul of our planet was sick. People had become isolated and warlike. Our world was frightened. It was dying. But a great scientist was trying to save us. He had tried many times, and he knew he could only try once more. This was the last Mimzy.”
The above narration plays while a scientist in a very poorly lit lab puts magical mandala things into a magical mandala box, and then puts the magical mandala box into a portal or some shit. The moment is confusing, but settle in because we are only a minute and a half into this goddamn movie.
We’re then treated to an abrupt CUT TO of elementary school children entering school through metal detectors. This moment is so bizarrely discordant that it feels worth bringing up, but really the metal detectors are just a backdrop to meeting Noah (terribly acted by Chris O’Neil), our young protagonist. Through a conversation with his friend who is a Bad Kid™, we learn that Noah is a Stupid Idiot Who Hates School and Hates Science the Most. Good thing we’re about to go to science class, where we meet Rainn Wilson, Noah’s science teacher.
We’re going to take a big WTF aside to discuss this: How old were you when you started going to a school that had individual classes? Like class periods and passing periods and the school trusted you as a child to get to each of your different classes? I was 12. Seventh grade. I feel like the earliest this starts is in sixth grade, but it definitely doesn’t happen in elementary school, right? Because elementary school has students aged 5-12 and can you imagine five-year-olds getting where they need to go in a five-minute passing period? I can’t. This is weird. WTF, The Last Mimzy? Upon deeper thought I think they’re just doing this because they want Rainn Wilson to be specifically A Science Teacher so that he can provide skepticism to all the magical mandala shit to come. Regardless, this is lazy and distracting.
Okay, back to the story. We meet Rainn Wilson. Rainn Wilson is A Science Teacher who is very into DNA and genetic code. He is also very into Pink Floyd and transcendental meditation and magical mandalas. He is a man of conflict.
School is over now, and it’s time for Easter Vacation! Noah goes to Whidbey Island for Easter Vacation, which his Bad Friend™ thinks is very lame. We also get some establishing scenes where we learn that:
- Noah’s Dad (Timothy Hutton) works too much at his lawyer job.
- Noah has a Mom (Joely Richardson) and a pesky little sister named Emma (played by the entirely adequate seven-year-old, Rhiannon Leigh Wryn). Emma is sweet and sensitive, and Noah is a total dick to her.
So, the family gets to their Whidbey Island vacation home and the kiddos run off to the beach. Emma sees something in the water, and guess what? It’s the magical mandala box. The box opens itself and inside we have magical mandala “toys,” as the children will call them for the remainder of the movie. The toys are:
- A shiny glass tablet that sort of looks like Al’s handlink from Quantum Leap
- A seashell with mandalas all over it, and also magic space goo?
- A glowy thing that looks like a sea cucumber
- A very sparkly rock
- And, underneath the magical mandala box’s false bottom, a stuffed bunny rabbit
The film makes this entirely unclear, but either the magical mandala box, or any number of the “toys,” or the bunny are the titular Last Mimzy.
As the kids play with their new toys they start to develop magic abilities, but they aren’t supposed to be magic per se, they are supposed to be accessing and harnessing deep knowledge of the universe (#science!), but it really comes off as magic to us dumb unenlightened human-folk.
We then cut to Rainn Wilson and his girlfriend (Kathryn Hahn). We’ve made it to the formerly Bare Ass Scene, friends! Here we learn that Kathryn Hahn is very into transcendental meditation, and that Rainn Wilson occasionally has prophetic dreams despite his Very Important Science Teacher Skepticism. Turns out Rainn Wilson and Kathryn Hahn tripped the light fantastic down in Nepal, and now he is haunted by a dream of a giant spinning mandala in the sky. Cool story, bro. They then fuck in this children’s movie. We don’t see most of it, but the implication is clear.
Anyway, while Rainn Wilson gets his bone on, we go back to Whidbey Island. Emma breaks the sparkly rock into a bunch of smaller sparkly rocks, and it turns out this is by design. You see, her magical bunny rabbit friend coos whispers to Emma and teaches her to spin the small sparkly rocks like tops. They float in the air as they spin, and if you spin all of them in a circle they form a goddamn portal or some shit. Emma puts her hand in it and it ATOMIZES IT.
Now we’re back on the beach. Emma casually levitates. They hold the mandala seashell up to their ears and can suddenly hear all of nature. Like, bugs crawling, spiders spinning webs, etc. This has the effect of giving Noah Spider Control Powers. He thinks this is, and I quote, “Sweeeeeeeet.”
Later that night Emma and Mom have a conversation about “Do aliens exist?” I guess we’re supposed to think that this box is from Aliens? The kids then blow off s’mores with their mom (fools!) to play with their toys.
Cut to Noah, staring at the glass tablet, and suddenly he sees everything in the universe connected by triangles. He then zaps a sprite between dimensions or something, and the zap reappears it several feet away. Emma reveals to Noah that the bunny reads minds, and knows everything about her.
Back in school, Noah starts compulsively drawing mandalas. Rainn Wilson notices this, and after class lays down an education to Noah about mandalas. Rainn Wilson borrows the mandala pictures so that he and Kathryn Hahn can look them up in ancient texts, I guess. They think that Noah is a Very Special Boy.
So, suddenly Noah is very smart, and uses his Spider Control Powers coupled with his Everything is Connected by Triangles Knowledge to make spiders build a super strong bridge with their webs. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
Later that night, Noah is playing with his toys, and inserts the glass tablet into the glowy sea cucumber. This transforms the toys into one new spidery type toy and causes a massive city-wide blackout. OH SHIT. Noah hides his new toy under the bed.
The city-wide blackout activates the NSA Seattle Branch, which is headed up by Michael Clarke Duncan. Michael Clarke Duncan stresses to his team that this is probably some terrorist shit, and that he wants to do everything by the book. It is too late in the movie into introduce a new character, and that sucks because Michael Clarke Duncan is an enjoyable actor.
Rainn Wilson and Kathryn Hahn then show up at Noah’s house to talk to Noah’s Mom. They inform Noah’s Mom that not only is Noah a Super Genius, but they also think he is a Very Special Boy. Rainn Wilson’s skepticism completely gone, they lay down some more mandala knowledge, and then Kathryn Hahn goes on a tear about Magical Children of Nepal. Kathryn Hahn asks to read Noah’s palm, because it will indicate if he is indeed a Very Special Boy. She does, and lo—Noah is NOT a Very Special Boy. But she does also look at Emma’s hand and, as it turns out, Emma is the Very Special Boy.
This freaks Noah’s Mom out, and she asks them to leave. Which, GOOD YES, this *should* freak you out, Parent!
We now get a scene in which Emma and her babysitter (Randi Lynne) are reading a book. The book is “Mimzy Were the Borogroves” upon which the film is based. This little meta moment is incredibly noisy in its meta-ness, but the scene that follows is actually my favorite in the movie. In this scene, the Emma asks if she can show her babysitter a magic trick. She then gets the smaller sparkly rocks, spins them, and atomizes her hand. This, understandably, freaks the babysitter’s shit out, and she LITERALLY runs from the house screaming. It is amazing. Good job, Randi Lynne. You are the best part of this terrible movie.
So, freaked out about this babysitter incident, Noah and Emma’s parents sit down with Rainn Wilson and Kathryn Hahn because maybe they can shed some light on the situation? They can’t really because IN RUSH THE FEDS who, having traced their home down as the source of the blackout, arrest the whole family for questioning.
The feds question the family and science at the toys they’ve found in the house. Emma does her magic atomizing hand trick, and everyone is freaked the fuck out by this, AS THEY SHOULD BE. Emma explains that the bunny, who she calls Mimzy, taught her how to do it. They then take the bunny from Emma, which has been ever present by her side for the whole movie, cooing instructions to her the constantly. Emma cries.
The scientists analyze the bunny and discover the Intel logo etched on it AT THE MOLECULAR LEVEL. Yes, friends, Mimzy has Intel Inside. They talk to a dude at Intel, and he is like, “Yeah uh, we didn’t build this, this is beyond our technology, this is really good Artificial Life.”
Later that night and still in fed custody, Emma and Noah learn they can communicate telepathically. They then steal the bunny and other toys back from the feds and escape using their newfound telepathy, spider control powers, etc etc etc. They steal a big ol’ truck. They’ve got to get to Whidbey to build a bridge through the universe to send the bunny back to where she came from. The bunny told them so.
See, it turns out that none of this shit is aliens. Tricky tricky! The Last Mimzy was actually sent back in time from the people of the future. They need fresh, pure human DNA to save humanity. People can’t travel through time—they die—so they built incredibly advanced artificial life dolls to do the traveling. Emma cried on the bunny, which I guess imparts it with the DNA future humanity needs.
Cut to Rainn Wilson, who wakes up from a Very Real Dream. He was at a very specific gas station. His skepticism gone again, Kathryn Hahn convinces him that they need to go to that very specific gas station. And it’s a good thing too, because that is where the kids’ stolen truck runs out of gas.
At the gas station Noah tries to convince Rainn Wilson to drive them to Whidbey, which Rainn Wilson is rightly like, “Uh, hell no that is kidnapping.” But then Kathryn Hahn is like, “THIS IS THE UNIVERSE! HOW CAN YOU LET A LITTLE EARTHLY THING LIKE KIDNAPPING STOP YOU?!?” Convinced, Rainn Wilson agrees.
So, they get to Whidbey, and we’re finally at the climax of this goddamn movie. Noah builds the bridge with his mind and the toys, Emma starts to send the bunny back but almost gets sucked in, the parents and the feds show up (having realized the kids escaped) and freak out at all this shit. But then the bunny gets zapped back, leaving the spinning mandala in the sky from Rainn Wilson’s dream. WOW. PROPHECY. I guess these kids just go back to being normal now.
The film ends where it began, back at Flower Mandala School with the Flower Children, hearing the story of how humanity was saved. We get a little more teacher telepathic narration, and then, class dismissed, The Flower Children float away…
This fucking movie.
I don’t know much about how the sausage is made, movie-wise, but here is my guess on How The Fuck This Film Happened:
This film was directed by New Line Cinema Founder and CEO Robert Shaye. This motherfucker produced The Lord of the Fucking Rings. This motherfucker produced the Nightmare on Fucking Elm Street franchise (he even acted in some of them). This motherfucker’s studio produced a bunch of John Waters films. AND BOOGIE NIGHTS YOU GUYS.
This man does *not* know what a children’s movie is.
And so, my friends, I’d like to share a theory with you. This movie is not a children’s film. This movie is a horror. Bobby Shaye didn’t know how to make a children’s movie, so he made what he’d produced the most: horrors. If you remove the endcaps of The Flower Children, lift the score out of the movie, and then re-score it with a horror soundtrack the transformation is complete. No other cuts needed.
When you watch it with this in mind, you can see nothing else. It is a horror flick straight out of 1983. It has more in common with Poltergeist and The Amityville Horror than any children’s movie I’ve ever seen.
The scene with the babysitter really typifies this, and good job Randi Lynne, because you actually knew what kind of movie you were in. I’d run from the house too if my seven-year-old charge opened a hell dimension which gave her the ability to dissolve her hand. After the babysitter runs from the house Emma creepily says, “I was just trying to show her a magic trick.” It is REDЯUM. It is ‘they’re heeeeeere.’ It is every other creepy child horror trope.
Noah exhibits a lot of horrific behaviors as well. You see, only kids can see the magic in the toys. To adults they just look like rocks and other dumb bullshit. The scenes in which he is staring at the glass tablet, for instance, from the parents’ point of view would be “My kid is staring at a rock, and then he accesses demon powers to teleport things.”
In fact, the rest of the acting is so stilted, and the pacing so slow, you feel it must be building to a full-on exorcist pea-soup moment.
Both Timothy Hutton and Joely Richardson appear to have taken Valium before every single scene, which really made me think of Craig T. Nelson and JoBeth Williams’ ever-present doobie in Poltergeist. Even when the movie is trying to raise the stakes, and freak the parents out about their kids, they’re calm. Nothing is too bad, nothing is too good, it’s just Valium-Even.
Rainn Wilson and Kathryn Hahn are really, really trying. God bless them. But the appropriation of Buddhism is frankly pretty lazy and upsetting. It simultaneously adores and embarrasses the Magic Mandala subject matter, and I can’t tell what the movie’s point of view is regarding the spiritual overtones of the film. I have a feeling that Robert Shaye took a trip to New Zealand during LotR, took a bunch of mushrooms, and then developed his desire for directing what is CLEARLY a passion project that he was just way too in his head to make.
I didn’t have any inkling of this the first (or second!) time I watched the film, but honestly Freddy Krueger himself could have been dropped into this movie at any point and it might have made it better. I dunno. This movie sucked in 2007 and is sucks in 2017. Boo. Don’t watch it.
At one point the camera focuses on a TV playing a news report about the city-wide blackout. The scene plays as follows:
News reporter: “…there still has been no cause found to the city-wide blackout that occurred a few days ago. We’ll keep you updated on the latest. *pause* In other news, 40 are dead as–*the TV is turned off*”
This moment is SO RIDICULOUSLY JARRING that Jacob and I spontaneously burst into laughter on both viewings. It is the second-best part of the movie.
- That is not a Seattle city bus. It is clear we are in Vancouver.
- The downtown Seattle ferry terminal does NOT have a ferry to Whidbey Island. Its Bremerton or Bainbridge only, you guys.
- Noah tries to swim in the Puget Sound during Easter. Okay, idiot, have fun with that fucking freezing water.
- I’m pretty sure that “Seattle Elementary” is actually Lowell Elementary School on Capitol Hill. It’s nice that they got a few shots in Seattle.
Mandala Count: 22 (now 23)
 I WILL NEVER CALL YOU XFINITY, COMCAST. WE ALL KNOW WHO YOU ARE.
 It in fact does NOT have Rainn Wilson’s bare ass. It was filmed to have Rainn Wilson’s bare ass, but I can only assume Studio Execs/Test Audiences could not handle Bare Rainn Wilson Ass so they had an animation team paint CGI leopard print underpants on the bare ass making it no longer bare.
 I dare you to count how many times I use the word mandala in this review.
 The science presented in his science lessons are not super sound, and have a lot of errors and inconsistencies. American public education, or bad writing? YOU BE THE JUDGE.
 Very specifically Easter Vacation, for this very scary metal detector-ed public school.
 Yes, this movie is set in Seattle, and yes, I will give you a report of all of its Seattle Sins.
 I mean…why would they not? But ok cool, Michael Clarke Duncan, you’re the boss.
 He is also the only person of color with lines in this movie.
 This story apparently uses Lewis Carroll and his Alice (of Wonderland) as characters. The movie does try to make some “through the looking glass” references but mostly it is exhausting to try to track one more thing in this goddamn movie.
 Good Lawyer Dad is like, “Do you have a search warrant?” to Michael Clarke Duncan who responds, “I don’t need a warrant, I have probable cause.” Which…that isn’t how it works, MCD. But ok. Dad is like, “Aw you got me!” Because apparently he works in contract law or something.
 This moment feels very Escape from Witch Mountain.
 Yes, really.
 YES REALLY.
 I will give someone $50 if they do this. That is how strongly I feel about this point of view.
 Emma does levitate a number of times in the movie, and the moment is treated very Poltergeist-esque. She also has a seizure because of the toys. O_O