The Last Mimzy Robert Shaye

I went into this with the lowest possible expectations; it was, after all, a kid pic directed by a studio head. Still, I was pleasantly surprised, both at its not-crappiness and how un-conservative it plays for a family picture.

The film deals with a couple of young kids (Chris O’Neill and Rhiannon Leigh Wryn) who discover a mysterious box while vacationing at their cottage. The box turns out to contain "toys” that perform magical functions and increase the intelligence of their users. The children’s parents (Timothy Hutton and Joely Richardson) are understandably perplexed at their children’s sudden super-genius status but that’s the least of their worries — things only get worse when the toys cause a blackout and rouse the attention of Homeland Security.

One can’t give points for style, however — director Robert Shaye, the head of New Line Pictures, simply doesn’t have the chops to give the fantasy elements the magical aura they need. But otherwise this is a cut above the usual kiddie schlock, with unusually solid writing (from a story by Henry Kuttner and C.L. Moore) and a refusal to talk down to the tots in the audience. And it’s remarkable how liberal the movie is — there’s even a hippie-fied teacher (Rainn Wilson) to introduce Eastern mysticism and the occasional Mandala into the mix.

It’s not entirely successful, and has its awkward moments as it clumsily tries to blend magic with modernity. But though it stumbles on more than one occasion (and completely defeats poor Michael Clarke Duncan as a Fed on a mission), it’s pretty solid entertainment if you have kids and you don’t want their minds to be completely reduced to mush.

(Alliance Atlantis)