2008, PG, 95 min. Directed by Jennifer Flackett, Mark Levin. Starring Abigail Breslin, Jodie Foster, Gerard Butler, Michael Carman.
REVIEWED By Marjorie Baumgarten, Fri., April 4, 2008
Boys adventure stories are a dime (store novel) a dozen, but girls adventure tales are rare things indeed. The new film Nim’s Island, which is adapted from Wendy Orr’s young-adult novel, comes to the rescue with its South Seas setting and message to girls of all ages about the need to become the heroes of their own life stories. The film details the parallel adventures of Nim Rusoe (Breslin), a motherless girl who lives on an otherwise deserted South Pacific atoll with her scientist father (Butler), and Alexandra Rover (Foster), a San Francisco agoraphobe who writes adventure novels about the escapades of her imaginary alter ego, Alex Rover (an Indiana Jones-type fellow who is also incarnated by Butler). Contemporary in nature, Nim’s Island incorporates e-mail, satellite telephones, Expedia, and agoraphobia into the storyline, and it’s best not to pause too long to wonder how deserted islands and Wi-Fi go together in the same story. Though the plot hinges on Nim's cry for outside help once her father is presumed lost at sea in a storm and she becomes rattled by a gash in her leg and the invasion of her island by opportunistic sailors, the real character growth belongs to Alexandra, who must brave the world beyond her front door and summon the courage she ordinarily diverts to her fictional surrogate in order to help young Nim. It's lovely to watch Foster in this role, taking a comedic breather from all the high-tension thrillers she's been appearing in of late. Alexandra hearkens back to her days as a Disney TV heroine, fresh-faced and Coppertone-tanned instead of pursed lips and buff efficiency. Breslin tones down the perky effusiveness of her Little Miss Sunshine character to create a believable child who has never known any life but the one she's living. Her friends are a lizard, a pelican, and a sea lion with whom she dances and plays soccer. Cast in dual roles, Butler probably has the most fun of all, and the presence of the ruggedly handsome 300 star will likely prove a sop to the mothers who'll be accompanying their daughters to the movie. Nim's Island bogs down a bit in the midsection with a subplot that seems to be more about the "do" than the derring-do, but the oft-cited phrase about becoming the hero of one's own story is a mantra that bears repetition. It's time for girls involved in South Seas adventures to do more than dress up in sarongs like Dorothy Lamour.