One of my favorite SF short stories of all time is Mimsy were the Borogroves. A totally charming story written by the husband & wife team of Henry Kuttner and C. L. Moore and published in the February 1943 edition of Astounding Science Fiction (edited by the legendary John W. Campbell, Jr.). The written story was a charming and guileless adventure that would have been at home in The Twilight Zone but got turned into a a cliche-driven, over pumped shamble of a movie.
The basic themes of the story are there: children can more easily learn mind-bending ideas than fixed-minded adults; the adults are scared by the new developments in their children. In the classic words of Sideshow Bob, “That is all.”
The rest of the movie was literally invented for the movie. The movie’s philosophical foundation rests entirely on contrasting New Age hippies vs. the ignorant, Establishment characters who respond with knee-jerk cliches. The hippies are represented by the science teacher and his girlfriend who are so new age that they aren’t married — just living together. They are the ones who see the children’s development as special and something wonderful. Obviously, no one else does. The perpetually hysterical mother, the over-reacting adults at Homeland Security (yes, the movie actually brings in Homeland Security to add some “tension” to the story) and the poor babysitter who gets freaked out and made fun of later in the movie.
The movie seems less concerned about the themes of the original story , which was about the wonder and potential for children, and more concerned about showing how fuzzy-headed, mandala-buying New Agers are the cutting edge of truth and everyone else are just “Bring out the torches! Burn the witch!” reactionaries.
OK, I exaggerate… but only a little.
I spent most of the movie predicting how the kids were going to scare their parents, the babysitter and the authorities and how they would all behave like irrational, frightened animals. The Homeland Security guy, played by Michael Clarke Duncan (“The Green Mile”), and his reason for being involved starts off strong and then they blow-off Homeland Security at the end. “What the fuh–!? What was the point of even bringing him in!”
To me, this movie stinks of a project that was in development hell. It felt like a mish-mash of different people’s ideas poured into a 2-hour movie mold and left to air dry. There were several attempts to ratchet up the tension, but they all get resolved pretty lamely which to me is a 50-foot neon sign saying “Script Doctor Was Here!”
Hollywood, if you don’t have a coherent story to tell, then please don’t tell it! Why ruin a perfectly good story just to fill a burn-off slot in March?