Nim's Island

Category: Nim's Island Reviews | Posted by: stagewomanjen
Article Date: April 7, 2008 | Publication: School Library Journal | Author: Kent Turner
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Maybe it was to lure a big-name actor, but the character of novelist Alex Rover—played by Jodie Foster—has been significantly beefed up in the film adaptation of Wendy Orr’s Nim’s Island (Knopf, 2001), a modern take on The Swiss Family Robinson. Consequently, Foster hijacks the film from ostensible star Abigail Breslin, who really does seem to be having the time of her life as Nim, an 11-year-old living on a beautiful South Pacific island with her scientist father, Jack (Gerard Butler), and her friends Fred the iguana, Galileo the pelican, and Selkie the sea lion. (Yes, they are as cute as they sound. Wisely, the adult actors rarely compete with these scene stealers.)

The film begins strongly and swiftly, packing in both a pro-reading and pro-environmental message without clobbering anyone over the head. No one else knows about the existence of the idyllic, nameless isle, save for whoever captains a supply ship, which brings Nim an adventure novel from her favorite author, Alex Rover. As Nim lays on her bed reading, the swashbuckling hero's latest daring escape comes to life behind her.

When her dad sets sail to discover a new breed of protozoa, he leaves his self-sufficient, machete-wielding daughter to mind the island, reminding her that, “We take care of our island, and our island will take care of us.” (Al Gore couldn’t have written it better himself.) But a sudden storm cuts off Jack’s radio communication, leaving him adrift (with sharks circling the waters).
Left alone, Nim successfully defends her home from an invading horde of tourists on a giant cruise ship. Her only contact is none other than novelist Alex(andra) Rover, who has emailed Jack for research information. Realizing Nim is all alone, the agoraphobic Alexandra decides to have an adventure of her own and joins her.

Played for laughs, Alexandra’s neurotic tics become repetitious and more abrasive than humorous—such as her addiction to Purell (hello, product placement!). Foster has never been known as a light comedienne, and here she appears more relaxed than usual, throwing herself into the physical shtick. But unlike other neurotics—like The Odd Couple’s Felix Ungar—Alexandra’s mannerisms overwhelm her desire to connect to anyone. During her misadventures, which dominate the movie’s second half, you may end up forgetting all about Nim, left stranded back on the island.