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Nim's Island

Category: Nim's Island Reviews
Article Date: April 4, 2008 | Publication: Tulsa World | Author: MICHAEL SMITH
Source: Tulsa World

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To appreciate “Nim’s Island” is to embrace the spirit of a family film that recognizes exactly what a family going to the movies is seeking.

They want adventure and humor without undue innuendo. They want intuitive kids and caring parents whose values refl ect their own.

They want to see a world that stretches their imagination, but that also makes them think all things are possible. “Nim’s Island” succeeds on almost every level, including how it showcases its three stars.

Abigail Breslin (“Little Miss Sunshine”) is not only cute, she’s growing as an actress. Jodie Foster is divine in a comic role that will make parents recall how they fi rst fell in love with her in “Freaky Friday.”

And Gerard Butler (the six-pack abs from “300”) is, you know, ruggedly hotter than the volcano-formed island in the South Pacific where his character and his daughter reside.

Based on the book written by Wendy Orr and illustrated Kerry Millard (and sprinkling in some children’s book graphics that heighten the fi lm’s look), the story is one about a widower scientist who home-schools his 11-year-old daughter on a deserted island full of adventure.

Their home is a multilevel expanse in the forest trees, complete with e-mail but not too many other modern conveniences, as little Nim swings to the ground on a rope system and fi nds companionship in a pelican pal, a sea lion who helps with water rescues and an iguana that is truly girl’s best friend.

Nim and her dad, Jack Rusoe (Crusoe, get it?) consider their solitude to be a paradise, but it takes just one bad storm to put their “Swiss Family Robinson” lifestyle in peril.

When a monsoon damages Dad’s boat, causing Nim to lose phone contact, the child is left to wonder: What would Alex Rover, the adventure hero of her favorite book series, do? The fl ip-side to all this peril halfway around the world is the reclusive Alexandra Rover (Foster), the agoraphobic author of whirlwind adventures who never leaves her home, near-bathes herself in hand sanitizer and now is reading a distress call e-mail from a little girl.

Which leaves her asking the same question as Nim: What would Alex Rover do? The writer-director team of Jennifer Flackett and Mark Levin overcome a flabby background narration start to create a simple yet fastpaced story of survival on many levels.

Jack must save himself as his boat flounders and sharks circle. Alexandra must save a little girl who’s depending on her hero to help her and her dad. Nim, meanwhile, must save her home when a cruise ship stumbles upon their island nirvana.

The wisest decision is to employ Butler in not only the dad-in-danger role that isolates him for much of the fi lm, but to also dress him as a sort of Indiana Jones knockoff to play Alex Rover.

It’s a neat juxtaposition to think of him as not only the face his daughter sees in her adventurous imaginings, but also his playing off of Foster as her conscience, physically manifested as an impulsive hero prodding the frightened woman to action.

Alexandra is, of course, going to take action — her books’ credo: Be the hero of your own life story — and this offers Foster her most fun role in years.

Whether as a woman looking to break her writer’s block or as a hilariously bad traveler in today’s tight-security world, the role showcases a fl ustered comedic side unseen in years of Foster’s woman-in-danger dramas.

She is so delightful that her performance in this winning fi lm removes the bad taste left after last year’s pitiful “The Brave One.”

“Nim’s Island” is occasionally predictable and farfetched, but so sweet and pure that this rousing, sometimes swashbuckling tale of women overcoming their fears cannot be denied its place among top-quality family fare.

 


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