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White Kids' Burden

"The Last Mimzy" lets children in on our inconvenient truths.

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There's no hard evidence I'm aware of that a children's movie has ever changed the world. "Bambi" probably came as close as any I can think of; the death scene used to hit young baby boomers so hard they had to be carried screaming from theaters. Many members of environmentalist and animal-rights groups recall the moment with a sniffle.

"The Last Mimzy," an overall excellent children's film, has a loftier ambition. It wants to imbue children with not only a respect for terrestrial nature, but also an awareness of the entire universe and their relationship to it. It's a tall order, but as a good doctor in the film explains, kids' brains aren't yet as hardwired as adults'. Perhaps that's why the people of the future chose brother and sister Noah and Emma (Chris O'Neil and Rhiannon Leigh Wryn) to save them from looming biological disaster.

When we meet Noah and Emma, they are fairly average kids who hate homework, until they find a mysterious box washed up on the beach of their parents' vacation home. The box is full of toys that begin teaching the children, giving them the mind of John Travolta in "Phenomenon" and the predicament of "La Jetée." The future is trying to tell them something, literally. Emma receives warnings from Mimzy, a toy rabbit she finds in the box. Noah, getting the shorter stick, only talks to spiders, but he ends up helping Emma build a bridge to the future. (Though the screenplay is based on a short story, sometimes it sounds as if it were written for a news conference.)

"Mimzy" is sometimes giddy with ideas, though it concludes with a bit of a hangover if you're not used to rooting for stuffed animals. The religion had to be watered down, and science is given a little too much credit as a savior when it can be blamed to some degree for a lot of our current messes. Most distressing is the familiarity of the refrain: The world isn't going to be saved by Western man anymore, but rather his children. Of course it's not odd that children would be the heroes of a children's movie. And clichés are not likely to turn off this target audience — little people who, if a whole lot of scientists are wrong and it isn't too late, can still save us. (PG) 90 min. **** S

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