‘Nim’s Island’ 1 ½ stars

Category: Nim's Island Reviews | Posted by: stagewomanjen
Article Date: April 4, 2008 | Publication: Kansas City Star | Author: Robert Butler
Publication/Article Link:http://www.kansascity.com/entertainment/story/559280.html

A good idea and a great cast are wasted in “Nim’s Island,” a kiddie flick pitched to second-grade sensibilities that still manages to underestimate its audience.

Eleven-year-old Nim (Abigail Breslin, an Oscar nominee for “Little Miss Sunshine”) lives on a tropical island paradise with her marine biologist father, Jack (Gerard Butler, late of “300”). Theirs is a life of glorious solitude — Nim’s best “friends” are a sea lion, a walrus and a pelican.

Every now and then a supply ship drops off food, necessities and the latest Alex Rover adventure. Nim is addicted to these books about an Indiana Jones-type explorer. In her mind’s eye, Alex looks very much like her father. In fact, Butler portrays the swashbuckler in several fantasy sequences.

When her dad sails off on a scientific exhibition and doesn’t come back, young Nim seeks help from the most experienced adventurer she can think of. She uses her e-mail to contact Alex Rover.

Turns out that “Alex” is short for Alexandra Rover, a San Francisco novelist and nut case (Jodie Foster).

Alex is a neat freak who can’t write unless her desk has been perfectly organized, a germaphobe who buys Purell in bulk and a recluse who hasn’t left her house in months. Her sole companion is her imaginary creation, Alex Rover (again portrayed by Butler), who finally persuades her to set her fears aside and travel by plane, helicopter and boat to Nim’s island.

Based on Wendy Orr’s children’s novel, the screenplay (credited to four writers) is basically three movies that converge only in the last 10 minutes.

While waiting for help, Nim must dissuade a tourist ship from desecrating her island with touristy activities. Her tools are lizards flung by catapult, sea lion flatulence and, as a last resort, reviving the volcano at the island’s core.

Meanwhile her father must contend with hungry sharks and a tropical storm that swamps his boat.

And then there’s Alex’s neuroses-fueled trek halfway around the globe.

It sounds better than it is.

Directors Mark Levin and Jennifer Flackett mistake simplemindedness for charm and silliness for adventure.

At least “Nim’s Island” explains why Oscar-winner Foster doesn’t make comedies. Her efforts to wring laughs out of not-very-inspired slapstick are painful.

The film isn’t half-bad looking. If you can ignore the dialogue and lame plot developments, at least “Nim’s Island” might inspire happy dreams of a tropical vacation.