Nim's Island poster
Nim's Island poster
Abigail Breslin as Nim with Gerard Butler as her dad, Jack Ruscoe
Abigail Breslin as Nim with Gerard Butler as her dad, Jack Ruscoe
Nim and Alexandra in Nim and Jack's house
Nim and Alexandra in Nim and Jack's house
Nim and Alexandra thinking Jack isn't coming back
Nim and Alexandra thinking Jack isn't coming back
Gerard Butler as Alex Rover
Gerard Butler as Alex Rover
Gerrard Butler Hillary Swank
Nim swimming with her sealion friend, Selkie

NIM'S ISLAND

Family Film, 2008 - 4 Stars

Fun, Funny and Exotic

I don't think Walden Media is ever going to produce a five-star film, so I'm going to stop waiting. They just don't seem to have it in them. They lack the vision, I suppose. So, I'm just going to enjoy the four-star fare that seems to be their forte. Few family films rise above the level of "good mediocrity" nowadays anyway. (Pixar is the obvious exception to this.) Not so two generations ago. Two generations ago, five-star family films were the norm. But we in America have forsaken the family film, just as we have forsaken the family. I guess that is to be expected (forsaking the family film, I mean). I don't think the family film will make a comeback until the family makes one first.

That said, Nim's Island is a very enjoyable family film that is almost like taking a cheap vacation. It's fun, funny and exotic. It has three strong stars that carry it, in spite of a weak script and weak direction. You really can't do much better than Abigail Breslin (Little Miss Sunshine) for a child actress, Jodie Foster (Maverick) for a female comedian, or Gerard Butler (300, PS: I Love You, Tomb Raider: Cradle Of Life) for a romantic hero. The story is quirky and unrealistic, but it is enjoyable and does have a message: "Be the hero of your own story."

Nim's Island can be forgiven its lack of realism because it is being told from the viewpoint of eleven-year-old Nim (Abigail Breslin), who has an active imagination that is fueled by reading adventure stories written by Alexandra Rover (Jodie Foster) and featuring Alex Rover (Gerard Butler) as the hero. Butler also plays Nim's father, Jack Ruscoe, who is a marine biologist living alone on a South Pacific island with his daughter. Jack goes off for two days on his boat to search for a new specimen of marine life, but does not return when he said he would because he is caught in a storm, which all but destroys his boat. Meanwhile, Alexandra, who is doing research for her latest novel, contacts Jack via e-mail to ask about his island, which has an active volcano on it. Thinking that Alexandra is the heroic Alex from her books, Nim asks Alex to come help her find her dad, whom she believes is lost at sea, and to help save her island, which is being invaded by tourists from a questionable cruise ship called the Buccaneer. Unlike Alex, Alexandra is deathly afraid of everything, and thinks of every excuse why she can't come. But the imaginary Alex, who is as real to Alexandra as he is to Nim, talks her into it. So off they go to help Nim, with Alexandra kicking and screaming.

The story is strangely reminiscent of Romancing The Stone, but toned down for kids. It also has a host of animal actors, including a sealion, a frigate pelican and a bearded dragon lizard, all of which are Nim's pets and friends. The film is based on an illustrated children's book by Wendy Orr. I can see why the producers wanted to make this book into a film. I just can't see why they chose a pair of weak directors (Jennifer Flackett and Mark Levin) instead of one strong one. Directing is not a job that can be shared. Nor can I see why they chose a team of weak writers (in addition to Flackett and Levin, Joseph Kwong and Paula Mazur) instead of one or two strong ones. Too many cooks spoil the soup, especially when the characters and plot have already been worked out in the book. So, much is lost that could have been saved with greater wisdom on the part of the producers. But the actors are enjoyable and the locations gorgeous, and it does make a nice escapist film for the family. The DVD may be worth buying because it comes with a book of exotic creatures; but the special features are rather slim unless you're an Abigail Breslin fan.

Waitsel

Waitsel Smith, August 23, 2008

Text © 2008 Waitsel Smith. Images © 2008 20th Century Fox. All Rights Reserved.

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