|"Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
Did gyre and gimble in the wabe;
All mimsy were the borogoves,
And the mome raths outgrabe"
Ah, it takes me back to my childhood to hear those words aloud. Like many people of my generation (and even further back) I grew up on the writings of Lewis Carroll. I fell in love with the "Jabberwocky" for it's seeming nonsensical nature.
It seems that some people have tried to make sense of it... and as both the short story and the film demonstrate... with great success.
The story opens with a beautiful field filled with colorful flowers and children running and playing. A woman (presumably their teacher) calls all the children and begins to tell them a story. They all can see the story in their minds. The credits roll and we are brought immediately into "present time".
The film takes place in Seattle, lending to beautiful scenery and excellent opportunities for spectacular story telling. The focus is initially on the small boy Noah (Chris O'Neil). He is frustrated with school and his difficulties at home. He seems to feel neglected by his overworking father (Timothy Hutton) who tries to give him a pep talk.
The family goes on vacation to Whidbey Island (more stunning scenery), without the father who is too busy to make it. The mother (Joely Richardson), sister Emma (Rhiannon Leigh Wryn) and Noah head off to the island without him. Noah and Emma run to the beach to play and that is where they discover a mysterious box filled with "toys". This scene has some excellent camera shots, with the opening of the box and the children's reactions to its contents.
The children decide to keep their discovery secret, but their mother enters the room as they are playing with one of the objects. Mom mistakes it for a paperweight because it doesn't react the same way in her hands as it had for the children. The children seem happy about this. The box is still their little secret and soon it begins to reveal other items. Emma finds the other items, one of them being a rabbit. The rabbit tells Emma her name, Mimzy.
Rhiannon Leigh Wryn (Emma) is a fantastic young actress. She is precocious and her facial acting is unparalleled by any child actor I have ever seen. Both Rhiannon and Chris O'neil show exceptional talent playing completely believable characters.
We follow the children through their discovery of the objects and what it is those objects are teaching them. Mimzy and the other objects seem to communicate with the children, but we as the audience never can actually understand it ourselves. We see the communication through the children's expressions and the little girl's chatter.
Soon the children begin developing super-powers and this frightens the parents forcing them to seek help in an unexpected place... Noah's science teacher Mr. White and his fiance (Kathryn Hahn, Anchorman).
When a city-wide blackout occurs, the NSA steps in believing it to be a terrorist attack, though it is discovered that Noah and Emma are to blame. With their growing powers, Emma and Noah build a bridge between the past and the future to heal a troubled time.
There are a few notable performances aside from the children. The teacher, Mr. White (Rainn Wilson, The Office) was amazing. This character was interesting and entertaining and thankfully NOTHING like his character in The Office. The Homeland Security agent, Nathanial Broadman (Michael Clarke Duncan, The Green Mile, Armageddon) is an interesting addition to the cast.
The parentsare the weakest characters in the film, unfortunately. At times they are a bit over the top and often their reactions are unbelievable. This may be because most of the time the concentration of the film is on the children.
The pacing of the movie is good. Even when you expect something to happen it still takes you by surprise. The effects were amazing all the way through the movie, especially in the climax. Though it has a much happier ending than the short story, the ending doesn't feel forced.
There is a big tie-in this film between astrology and geometry. The filmmakers did an excellent job subtly laying in geometric shapes and patterns into nearly every scene. (Special alert for Pink Floyd fans: there's a new Roger Waters song, as well as some other imagery you might get a kick out of.)
I have not seen a children's science-fiction film since my own childhood that left me feeling so hopeful. It filled me with the belief that anything is possible with the pure hearts and minds of children. I would highly recommend this film to anyone with children, anyone who enjoys good science fiction and to anyone who can get swept up by a fairy tale. I have seen this movie twice now and you can be assured it will be a part of my collection.
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