Rated PG; Directed by Jennifer Flackett and Mark Levin; Starring Abigail Breslin, Jodie Foster, Gerard Butler
Nim’s Island is an adventure comedy aimed directly at the children in the audience. After all, it’s a kid’s fantasy. Life on a tropical island where you can run around all day with a cool dad, make friends with the wildlife, and even fight off “pirates.” It could even be a grown-up’s fantasy, well, if the food was better. Mealworms anyone? Still, even with an audience of prepubescent girls the movie doesn’t always hit its mark, though it tries heartily.
Young Nim (Abigail Breslin) lives on a lonely tropical island with her scientist dad, Jack (Gerard Butler), and enjoys her idyllic existence. Now a very independent and capable young girl, Nim is left on the island while Jack sails off to do some scientific research. She’s happy. She has the new Alex Rover novel. Alex Rover is an adventurous hero in the Indiana Jones mode. So when Jack doesn’t return, and suddenly she receives an email from Alex Rover, Nim asks for Alex’s help. What Nim doesn’t know is that Alex Rover, the writer, is an agoraphobic, compulsive/obsessive, and unadventurous woman (played by Jodie Foster).and nothing like the Alex Rover in the novels. She had emailed Jack while researching her next book. Yet when Nim needs help Alex makes an attempt to rescue the girl.
It’s a great concept and sometimes the movie lives up to it. The movie splits the story. We watch Nim handling the emergencies on the island, including a marauding band of Australian tourists, while Alex has to force herself out the door and fly halfway across the world. The scenes bounce back from Nim to Alex, but both stories aren’t always as equally entertaining. There are moments when the movie takes off, especially in a scene with an enthusiastically flying lizard, but there are some letdowns too.
Jodie Foster has a good time as the less than comfortable author, but she can only do so much with pratfalls. The script doesn’t give Foster a lot to do, but she gamely gives it her all. Abigail Breslin is wonderful as the courageous Nim. Gerard Butler manages a nice performance in the dual role as Jack and the fictional Alex Rover.
Nim’s Island has a good concept, a great cast, and some nice moments. As a movie made for children there is a lot to recommend it. I just wish it offered more for us grown-ups.