Logic, suspense deserted in Nim's Island

Category: Nim's Island Reviews | Posted by: stagewomanjen
Article Date: April 4, 2008 | Publication: The Winnipeg Sun | Author: JIM SLOTEK
Publication/Article Link:http://winnipegsun.com/Entertainment/Movies/2008/04/04/5191581-sun.html

Nim's Island is the sort of movie where people fall off boats in the middle of typhoons and wake up perfectly fine on the shores of deserted South Pacific islands.

This, by itself, is not a mortal sin -- more of a venial sin along the lines of explosions that can't hurt you as long as you're running away from them. Which reminds me, Nim's Island also has a volcanic eruption you can run away from.

Those are just two contrivances in a children's movie that is larded with them. The worst movie of Jodie Foster's adult career, Nim's Island is as big a mess as you might expect from a movie with four credited writers (which means there were probably more) and two directors, all at apparent cross-purposes.

That leaves a lot on the 11-year-old shoulders of the ubiquitous Abigail Breslin (Little Miss Sunshine, Definitely, Maybe), whose now-famous toothy grin looks absolutely genuine as she rappels through the jungle and talks to the animals (a sea lion, a pelican and a bearded dragon lizard), all of whom talk back in their own fashion and play and dance with her as if she were Bindi The Jungle Girl.

Depending on your insulin level, these are Nim's Island's best moments. The rest will bore kids of all ages.

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The movie begins with Nim (Breslin) narrating her own life story, which includes her oceanographer mother's death at the hands of a hungry blue whale (the average 7-year-old could tell you blue whales are baleen mammals who couldn't ingest anything much bigger than a shrimp). Time has passed, and she now shares an island paradise with her biologist dad (Gerard Butler), and when not cruising on the back of her sea lion, she immerses herself in the potboiler novel adventures of Alex Rover, an Indiana Jones-esque character played by Butler.

On the other side of the planet, we meet Alexandra Rover (Foster), a neurotic shut-in, paralyzed by agoraphobia and obsessive-compulsive disorder. The author of the Alex Rover books, she's routinely visited by her creation (again, played by Butler), who mocks her for never leaving the house. Foster is supposed to play all this for laughs, and she's so stiff you can see why she hasn't done a comedy since, I believe, Freaky Friday.

While researching her next book, she comes across a magazine article Nim's dad wrote about living in the shadow of a volcano and e-mails him with lava questions (apparently she's more interested in accuracy than the writers of this movie). Unfortunately, the professor is stranded at sea looking for glow-in-the-dark protozoa, and Nim injures herself studying the volcano at Alexandra's behest.

Realizing there's a child in danger in the South Pacific, and egged on by her protagonist, Alexandra forces herself to leave the house and fly around the world. This wacky flibbertigibbet's Third World journey is not exactly in Foster's acting wheelhouse, and we have to endure a lot of it. It comes off as an entirely pointless slapstick exercise, since Nim can clearly take care of herself and has no use for a neurotic city woman. Nor does Alexandra's mission hold out any hope for the missing dad.

Not to worry, of course. Nim's Island is a movie about "peril" that is practically devoid of suspense. You won't have to worry about your kids being frightened, though a non-scheduled nap remains a possibility.

Sun Rating: 2 out of 5 stars