Category: Nim's Island Reviews | Posted by: stagewomanjen
Article Date: April 29, 2008 | Publication: The Manchester Evening News | Author: Damon Smith
IF any more proof were needed that 12-year-old Abigail Breslin, Oscar-nominated star of Little Miss Sunshine, is destined for superstardom, look no further than Nim's Island.
The diminutive actress takes top billing for this island adventure above two-time Academy Award winner Jodie Foster and action man Gerard Butler (300, P.S I Love You).
Breslin fully merits the honour - she is absolutely luminous as a plucky tyke stranded on her tropical home while her father is lost at sea.
She doesn't strike a single false emotional note and finds a pleasing balance between gentle humour and the inevitable tears as solitude weighs heavily on her character's young shoulders.
Foster makes her first foray into broad comedy since the disastrous Maverick with Mel Gibson in 1994, and here she's hilarious, playing an agoraphobic and compulsive obsessive who almost hyperventilates when she runs out of antiseptic hand wash.
The tantalising prospect of uniting two generations of Hollywood's finest talent on screen sustains our interest for a surprisingly eventful 95 minutes.
Nim (Breslin) lives on a lush South Pacific island with her scientist father Jack (Butler), who studies plankton while the youngster amuses herself with her animal pals: Selkie the sea lion, Galileo the pelican and Fred the bearded dragon.
In quieter moments, Nim loves to settle down with the latest Alex Rover book, following the escapades of the eponymous hero who travels round the world, hunting for treasure.
When Jack is lost at sea during a monsoon, Nim sends an urgent email SOS to the writer of the books.
"I can't be the hero of my own story," she writes. "I can't do this all by myself. Help me Alex Rover!"
Little does Nim know that Alex is actually Alexandra (Foster), a recluse who lives in San Francisco, far from the tropical locations that she writes about with such verve.
Nim's Island defies expectations, ending shortly after Alexandra stumbles onto the golden sands of the titular retreat.
Flackett and Levin's film is much more interested in the journeys - literal and emotional - of the characters as they repel invading tourists (with the help of homemade slingshots and local wildlife) or muster the determination to simply step outside their front door.
Foster is highly amusing, trading verbal quips with Butler's fictional hero (and even mocking his Glaswegian burr!) or admonishing island locals about their slovenly hygiene when handling goats.
Breslin tugs the heartstrings as her whippersnapper breaks down at the prospect of never seeing daddy dearest again, but she also enjoys some lighter moments, such as dancing with Selkie.
Vital lessons about courage ("It's not just in you, it's in every choice you make") are a little heavy-handed and some of the soul-searching is a tad cloying but younger audiences, especially, should lap up Nim's gung-ho exploits.
Three of five stars