Nim's Island Review
Category: Nim's Island Reviews | Posted by: stagewomanjen
Article Date: April 7, 2008 | Publication: The Courier Mail | Author: Des Partridge
YOU don't immediately think of two-time Oscar-winning actor Jodie Foster as the female lead of a family-friendly comedy (even one with the added perk of travel to glorious Queensland locations).
It's been 14 years since Foster last played a light role, opposite Mel Gibson in Maverick.
So here the former child star is again, in crazy mode, opposite Little Miss Sunshine herself, Abigail Breslin, and The Phantom of the Opera's Gerard Butler, in the big-screen adaptation of an Australian children's book by Victorian Wendy Orr.
Such a big-screen adaptation in fact that the movie required not one but two directors who work as a package: husband and wife Mark Levin and Jennifer Flackett, who also worked with producer Paul Mazur on adapting Orr's novel.
The result is the sort of family-friendly movie usually associated with the Disney brand, a mix of adventure and comedy targeted at juvenile audiences who won't niggle about the story's weaknesses.
Young girls around Breslin's age (11 years) are likely to be drawn into the story by Breslin's well-nuanced and mature performance as central character Nim. She's delightful.
With a variety of animal friends (some of them created by the Oscar-winning Gold Coast-based creatures specialist John Cox and his team) and a tropical island home (way over- designed by the production team), Nim leads an enviable life.
She's the centre of attention for her widower scientist father, Jack Rusoe (Gerard Butler), and old enough to be left to fend for herself for a few days when he sails off on a brief research trip, and into trouble that will delay him.
Nim has a passion for reading too, voraciously following the exploits of "the world's greatest adventurer" Alex Rover (Butler again, enjoying himself as a sort of Indiana Jones character).
What Nim doesn't know is that Rover's stories are in fact created by a woman, Alexandra Rover (Foster), a phobia-riddled recluse who is so timid she won't even walk outside the door of her San Francisco apartment.
How the writers manage to get Rover out of her west coast sanctuary to hook up with self-reliant Nim, alone on her South Pacific island home that's been ravaged by a tropical storm, is what the movie basically is about.
The challenges Rover has to overcome to help Nim (after the author discovers the young girl is alone on the island following her father's disappearance) provides what passes for comedy in this contrived adventure about discovering inner strengths.
There's also a boatload of broadly written cantankerous cruise passengers (including a young boy who proudly declares he's from Brisbane) thrown into a mix that has too many coincidences to be satisfying at an adult level.
Foster, whose body looks too gym-perfect for the role she's playing, works at her usual level of intensity.
But what's great for The Silence of the Lambs and The Accused is not exactly in tune with a light-hearted sort of role that Goldie Hawn might have done in her sleep.
Breslin more than matches it with the veteran, once again confirming the actors' adage of being wary of working with children and animals (particularly if they are as talented as Breslin, and as amusing as the flying lizards from Cox's workshop).
Butler is very much in a supporting role that surely left him ample time to enjoy the Gold Coast's attractions.
The Queensland locations, particularly Hinchinbrook Island, look a treat. What we still need is a Queensland movie to match the outstanding Queensland locations Hollywood filmmakers are regularly using. (96 min)