It begins with the Wilder kids, nine-year-old Noah (Chris O’Neil) and six-year-old Emma (Rhiannon Leigh Wryn) discovering an intricate box on the beach near their parents’ summer cabin in Washington state. The thing springs open to reveal a bunch of odd objects, including some rocks that defy gravity when Emma spins them, and a blue shapeless thing whose purpose isn’t immediately clear. Even weirder are the ones that look the most ordinary: a seashell that gives Noah super-hearing and a stuffed rabbit that speaks to Emma via some electronic rumbles that only she can hear. It tells Emma that its name is Mimzy, and that it comes from the future with a warning.
In short order, Noah is doodling Tibetan mandalas in his notebook and using the structural principles of spider webs to design bridges, to the bewilderment of his parents (Timothy Hutton and Joely Richardson) and his science teacher (Rainn Wilson). The revelation of the mandalas is particularly nice, as we first see the drawings reflected in the teacher’s glasses as he pages through Noah’s notebook. Director Robert Shaye — better known as a producer on the Nightmare on Elm Street movies — does admirable work capturing the kids’ uncanny talents emerging from the ordinariness of their everyday lives.