'Nim's Island' is worth visiting

Category: Nim's Island Reviews | Posted by: admin
Article Date: April 4, 2008 | Publication: Naperville Sun | Author: Nell Minow
Publication/Article Link:Naperville Sun

A pair of heroines on opposite sides of the world team up in “Nim’s Island,” an eye-dazzling and heart-warming story from Walden Media, the latest in its series of fine films based on popular children’s literature.

Nim (Abigail Breslin, “Little Miss Sunshine”), who’s 11, and her marine biologist father, Jack (Gerard Butler), are the only human residents of a remote but idyllic South Pacific island. While Jack studies nanoplankton, Nim makes the entire island her school, with the animals as her teachers and her friends.

3 stars

Running time: 96 minutes

Rated: PG (for mild adventure action and brief language)

Every few months, a supply boat brings another book by her favorite author, Alex Rover, an international man of adventure. But Alex is really Alexandra (Jodie Foster), a writer so terrified of just about everything that she lives on canned soup, constantly sanitizes her hands and cannot get far enough outside her front door to retrieve the mail.

Alexandra has created a hero who is everything she is not – fearless and always eager to go where she has never been and try what she has never tried.

To get information for her new book, Alexandra e-mails Jack for details about a volcano he described in an article for National Geographic. But he is away for two days, obtaining plankton samples, so Nim answers, thinking she is corresponding with the dashing Alex (also played by Butler, as envisioned by both Alexandra and Nim). By the time Alexandra realizes she is writing to a child, Jack is now missing and Nim is alone on the island. And the woman who was terrified to walk four feet to the mailbox must go halfway around the world to help her new friend. Husband and wife directors Jennifer Flackett and Mark Levin seamlessly combine adventure, drama, comedy and fantasy as Jack, Nim and Alexandra confront their separate but often parallel fears and challenges. As Nim tightens the rope around her waist so that she can climb the volcano, Alexandra is tightening the belt of her robe and gathering her resolve to walk out the front door. All three find their determination tested and creativity challenged. And all find assistance from unexpected friends.

Nim is an enormously appealing heroine and it is especially welcome to have a story about a resourceful and courageous young girl. The film wisely makes her the center of the story in a way that young audiences will find empowering. Breslin’s unaffected interactions with the island creatures and natural screen presence are a pleasure to watch.

Of the three characters, Nim is closest to the imaginary Alex Rover, confident and capable. She navigates the island by gliding on zip wires like a modern-day Tarzan. She not only swims with a sea lion, she also teaches it to play soccer and boogie. She can fix the solar panels on the roof to get the electricity and satellite uplink back in working order, protect the newborn baby turtles from predators, rappel down the side of a volcano, and make a dinner out of mung beans and meal worms.

When the island is invaded by a pirate-themed cruise ship bearing pina coladas, beach chairs and chubby Australian tourists, Nim and her animal friends set up a “Home Alone”-style series of booby-traps to scare them away.

Butler is fine as Nim’s fond, if distracted father and as the heroic Alex.

It’s a treat to see Foster enjoying a comic turn in her first family film since her Disney days, when she was Nim’s age, and shared the screen with Helen Hayes in “Candleshoe.” Here’s hoping when it is time for Breslin to pass on the torch to a young actress 30 years from now, it will be in a movie as good as this one.