'Nim's' is a fine film for kids, adults

Category: Nim's Island Reviews | Posted by: stagewomanjen
Article Date: April 7, 2008 | Publication: syracuse.com | Author: JOAN E. VADEBONCOEUR
Publication/Article Link:http://www.syracuse.com/entertainment/index.ssf?/base/entertainment-0/1207385726179841.xml&coll=1

Life on a tropical island can be tedious and tough. Or, if you are an 11-year-old, it can a place of exploration, learning and sheer joy.

Sheer joy is what "Nim's Island" delivers. Nim (Abigail Breslin) has become self-sufficient, educated while living with her widowed, scientist father Jack Rusoe (Gerard Butler). She also has a pelican who teaches her about the stars, a lizard and a sea lion as companions.

Among the books Nim reads are the Alex Rover adventures, unaware the author is a woman who is a wimp (Jodie Foster, also named Alex Rover). She never ventures out of her big-city apartment, even to the mailbox. Her imagination conjures the tales. She even talks to her imaginary hero, Alex (also played by Butler).

Then Nim's dad fails to come home on schedule from a sailing expedition, so she seeks the help of Alex via her computer. Prodded by the fictional Rover, the writer stumbles out her front door, flies in a jet, a one-engine plane and a helicopter. Finally, she finds her inner courage and steals a lifeboat to complete the journey to rescue the child.

Breslin continues to be enchanting, and Butler, at last, is convincing as a romantic leading man. Yet, it is Foster who surprises with her ability to play physical comedy and draw hidden laughs from the dialogue. Occasionally she's a bit over the top but never becomes grating.

The directing team of Jennifer Flackett and Mark Levin must have children. So, too, writers Joseph Kwong and Paula Mazur. Combine their talent at entertaining the young with their knowledge of what can make adult chaperones happy, and it's a recipe for success.