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Nim's entrancing Island

Category: Nim's Island Reviews
Article Date: April 3, 2008 | Publication: Diamondback Online | Author: Thomas Floyd

Posted by: stagewomanjen

As Nim curls up in bed, sparkling with unrestrained anticipation, she turns the pages and begins reading the latest Alex Rover novel. While Nim's mind becomes engrossed by the gripping story of her favorite adventurer, she imagines her bed being transported to the barren desert in which Rover is held captive. When the renowned hero makes yet another miraculous escape, Nim, his biggest fan, is right by his side.

Husband-and-wife directors Jennifer Flackett and Mark Levin (who previously worked together in Little Manhattan) adapted the charming story of Nim's Island from Wendy Orr's novel of the same title. With Nim's Island, the filmmakers have created a fascinating world in which its poignant story resonates with a richly original ambiance. The movie's best triumph, though, is that it simply reminds the audience why people fall in love with film and novels to begin with: imagination.

Nim (Abigail Breslin, Little Miss Sunshine) is an 11-year-old girl living on an unknown island with just her scientist father, Jack Rusoe (Gerard Butler, P.S. I Love You), and a cast of well-trained animal friends. When Jack leaves on a two-night journey at sea in an attempt to discover a new protozoan species, however, a turbulent storm severely damages his boat, leaving him to wonder if he will ever return to his daughter.

The relationship between Nim and her father is absolutely crucial to making the storyline work and, thankfully for the film, the connection is quite authentic. One can instantly tell that they mean the world to each other, and both characters are established as genuinely likable figures, making the plot all the more investing. When Nim imagines Rover, the rugged voyager is also portrayed by Butler, and the subtext behind that dual casting decision gives a clear idea of how Nim truly believes that her father is a hero in his own right.

Halfway across the world (as one continuous, albeit computer-enhanced, shot artistically shows us), the audience is introduced to the real Alex Rover (Jodie Foster, The Brave One). The daring Scottish adventurer Nim has envisioned from Alex's novels, however, is actually a manifestation from the mind of his obsessive-compulsive namesake. Having not left her San Francisco apartment for 16 weeks, the writer is surprised to receive a distressing e-mail from Nim asking that her idol come and save her father.

Embarking on a long, eventful journey that turns out to be more about overcoming her own fears than saving Nim from hers, Alex is accompanied by a thrill-seeking alter-ego in the form of her own literary protagonist. Alex even goes as far as to speak with the character, and their witty exchanges are some of the film's most amusing moments.

While waiting for her father to return, Nim is horrified to see that their island is being threatened by the glitz of commercialism. The incoming tourists, though, have no idea what they are getting into, and Nim protects her home with everything from projectile lizards (yes, you read that right) to a simulated volcanic eruption in a defense that would even make Home Alone's Kevin McCallister proud.

Meanwhile, Nim continues to keep the overwhelming concern for her father's safety hidden behind her apparently na've nature, but she can only withhold her emotions for so long. Breslin's layered performance here is ideal, while Foster and Butler both support her superbly in their against-type roles.

Though Nim's Island is only the second feature helmed by Levin and the directorial debut of Flackett, the couple had no problems fashioning a film that is as engaging aesthetically as it is story-wise. From the movie's opening shot, the audience is immersed in a world where its characters' imaginations run wild and the resulting creative possibilities are endless, allowing Nim's Island to stand out as more than just a trivial fantasy flick.

Rating: 3.5 STARS OUT OF 5


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