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'Nim's Island' is a warm, enjoyable family film

Category: Nim's Island Reviews
Article Date: April 4, 2008 | Publication: Tuscaloosa News | Author: Carla Meyer
Source: Tuscaloosa News

Posted by: admin

Jodie Foster isn't the greatest comedic actress. Stiff in her slapstick, she's too innately dignified to ever truly let go.

But just seeing her try is a real treat. And a relief, after her pistol-packin' victim/avenger roles.

In the lively and satisfying family film 'Nim's Island,' Foster plays a neuroses-packin' author who must summon the courage to leave her apartment to help an 11-year-old girl (Abigail Breslin) who is alone on a remote island.

The catch is that the girl is more resourceful than her would-be rescuer.

It's also the point. Directed by Jennifer Flackett and Mark Levin, and adapted from a novel by Wendy Orr, 'Nim's Island' offers a nice message for kids and grown-ups: Be the hero of your own story, whether confronting a volcano or 'borderline agoraphobia.' Alex Rover (Gerard Butler, from '300' ), the dashing adventurer who is the creation and imaginary friend of Foster's character, Alexandra Rover, challenges the writer on the 'borderline' part. Alexandra hasn't left her San Francisco apartment in weeks, not even to get the mail.

Nim (Breslin), by contrast, spends most of her time outdoors, on the island she shares with her marine biologist dad, Jack (also Butler), who regales the girl with tall tales about her late mother. Their last name is Rusoe, with author Orr having dropped the 'c' from that more famous tale of an isolated island dweller. She also added Internet access, which is something Robinson probably could have used.

Life on the island holds plenty of daily adventures, as directors Flackett and Levin show in a series of colorful, sun-kissed scenes of Nim collecting coconuts or cavorting with her pet sea lion. When not exploring the island or listening to her dad's stories, Nim feeds her imagination with the literary adventures of Alex Rover. She imagines Alex in the form of her dad, which makes sense since he's one of the few men she knows.

More puzzling is why Alexandra, who has never met Jack Rusoe, also envisions Butler as Alex. Maybe she just has a thing for Spartans.

The filmmakers establish Jack as likable and caring early in the film, helping to dissuade us from hating him when he leaves Nim alone and goes to sea for two days on a scientific mission. Granted, she asked him to allow her to stay alone on the island. But she's also 11.

Jack's misstep can be overlooked, eventually, because 'Nim's Island' assures us that everything will be all right. Or maybe it's the PG rating assuring us.

Either way, it's clear nothing truly bad will happen to these characters.

For instance, Jack's boat, which appears to capsize under the force of a big wave on a stormy night, sits upright the next day with Jack still in it. But his satellite phone no longer works, cutting off his communication with Nim.

While he's gone, Nim embarks on some nifty adventures. In 'Nim's Island,' the adorable Breslin taps the same game spirit she displayed in 'Little Miss Sunshine' but in a more physically demanding context. When Nim investigates a volcano, Breslin really appears to be climbing jagged rocks.

Nim and Alexandra make contact after the writer, unable to complete a chapter in her next Alex Rover adventure and seeking inspiration, e-mails Jack about a magazine article he wrote about the volcano on his island. Since Jack is at sea, Nim gets the missive. Thinking it's her hero Alex Rover on the other end, she's beyond excited.

Alex's efforts to get out of her apartment and to the island consume a large chunk of 'Nim's Island.' Kids who don't understand her psychological impediments might be bored by this interlude, just as adults might groan at how quickly she confronts her various fears.

But the sight of Foster fussing and flummoxing keeps things interesting for most of the way. She also shares nice chemistry with Butler in scenes where Alexandra squares off with her alter ego/subconscious Alex, who pushes her to get past her phobias and help the kid.

He's good as Jack, but Butler really shines in the scruffier role of Alex, exuding confidence and strength, and delivering his lines with a wink befitting a comic action hero. His character proves not just an accomplished derring-doer but quite the motivator as well.


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