Depending on which trailer you watch, you might get the idea that Nim’s Island is a star vehicle for Jodie Foster, Gerard Butler or Abigail Breslin. And even after seeing the movie, that’s a hard question to answer, considering the actors each spend a majority of the movie separate from each other.
Still, the film is owned by Abigail Breslin, who steals the show from both of her elder, more experienced co-stars. And this makes sense because she’s the title character.
Nim (Breslin) is a girl who lives on a tropical island with her dad Jack (Gerard Butler). They live the perfect life together. He does science, and she makes friends with the animals. However, one day, Jack is lost at sea while trying to research a special protozoa. This leaves Nim on the island alone with her animal friends to fend for herself.
While alone, Nim writes to her favorite author Alex Rover, to ask for help. What she doesn’t know is that the action star is really a reclusive author named Alexandra Rover (Jodie Foster), who writes fictional books. Soon, Alexandra realizes that Nim’s alone on the island, so she braves her own fears of the real world to try and save her.
To a degree, Nim’s Island reminded me of Fox/Walden’s last film Mr. Magorium’s Wonder Emporium in the sense that you need to approach the film with a child’s eye. I’ll admit that some scenes got tedious and some of the plot twists had a distinct Saturday morning special feel to them (albeit with a much larger budget). However, I could forgive these moments knowing that a child watching it wouldn’t be critical this way but rather would be swept up in the fantasy adventure elements.
Jodie Foster was a bit out of her element in the movie. It’s not that she can’t do comedy, or even the occasional family film (though it’s been a long time since the original Freaky Friday). But recently, her focus has been so strong on heavy-duty dramas that she seems to have a little trouble letting herself go in this movie.
Gerard Butler fills the duel role of the nerdy scientist and the swashbuckling personification of Alex Rover. For old-school Butler fans, this movie gives them a rare chance to see his range in a single film.
But as I said earlier, the real star of the film is Abigail Breslin. She owns the role of Nim completely and manages to not just remain interesting throughout her scenes (which are more often shared by a sea lion or a lizard than another human actor), but to be the most intriguing element of the movie.
I read on IMDb.com that someone likened this to an Indiana Jones movie for girls. Rather, it has more elements of Romancing the Stone, being a softer, more feminine tale. At times, it does try to tell too many stories (e.g., the relationship between a girl and her father, the shut-in’s struggle to come out, Nim’s quest to save her island from cruise ship exploitation), but I found all of this forgivable whenever I found myself thinking that my own kids are going to go bonkers over this movie.
Nim’s Island isn’t the perfect movie by far, and there are some moments that might annoy anyone over the age of ten. But like other movie’s I’ve seen, including The Adventures of Sharkboy and Lavagirl, the target market of young kids should just enjoy the adventure.
THE UPSIDE: Another decent family film for 2008.
THE DOWNSIDE: Might only really work for a younger audience.
ON THE SIDE: The little lizard would have normally annoyed me in any other movie, but for some reason, I thought it was cute in this film. I don’t know why.