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Case Number 14202: Small Claims Court

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Nim's Island

Fox // 2008 // 96 Minutes // Rated PG
Reviewed by Judge Paul Pritchard (Retired) // August 5th, 2008

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All Rise...

In keeping with the pirate theme of Nim's Island, Judge Paul Pritchard buried this disc when he was done with the review.

Editor's Note

Our review of Nim's Island (Blu-Ray), published August 11th, 2008, is also available.

The Charge

Be the hero of your own story.

The Case

Boasting Jodie Foster (The Brave One), Gerard Butler (300), and Abigail Breslin (Little Miss Sunshine), Nim's Island should be something quite special. The truth of the matter, though, is that even without any inflated expectations based on its cast, the film is a disappointment.

Directing duo Mark Levin and Jennifer Flackett, working from a screenplay they developed with Joseph Kwong and Paula Mazur, have crafted an attractive yet quite empty film that is likely to be forgotten within minutes of viewing and be left to collect dust on the DVD shelf.

The movie opens with Nim's narration, which explains how she, along with her father, came to call the island they live on home. All told through animation, incorporating numerous styles, it makes for a beautiful sequence that the rest of Nim's Island fails to live up to.

After quickly establishing Nim's friends, a quartet of animals that live on the island, and Nim's home featuring all the mod cons—except, apparently, a cooker—the main story kicks in. Nim (Abigail Breslin), we learn, has a fascination with the books of adventurer Alex Rover, a real-life Indiana Jones. Her father, Jack (Gerard Butler), is a marine biologist, and, when the chance to go on a "once-in-a-lifetime" research trip involving plankton comes up, Jack, like most responsible fathers, agrees to leave Nim home alone to look after her friends. Initially all appears to go to plan. Jack finds his plankton, while Nim helps her friend Chica (the turtle) when her eggs hatch.

Events quickly take a turn for the worse when, out of the blue, a fierce storm hits. It batters Jack's boat and leaves him stranded in the middle of nowhere. Help of sorts comes when Alex Rover, Nim's hero, tries to contact Jack via e-mail, requesting his assistance with his latest book. In reality, Alex is really Alexandra (Jodie Foster), an agoraphobic fiction writer who clearly has mental health problems, as she spends most of her time talking to her imaginary friend, the Alex Rover she writes about. Moreover, the fictional Alex Rover just happens to be the doppelganger of Jack, Nim's father.

When Alexandra learns of Nim's predicament, which escalates when the threat of pirates is brought into the mix, she is forced to face up to her fears and sets out to find Nim, while Jack begins his desperate journey home. It's from here on in that Nim's Island starts to fall apart. Rather than focusing on one particular story, the film spreads itself too thin by trying to tell each character's journey.

Nim faces off against the "pirates" in a Home Alone-style romp that uses catapulting lizards and reawakening volcanoes to sub for paint cans and falling irons. Meanwhile Alexandra must overcome her agoraphobia as she undergoes her slapstick-filled rescue mission. Jack is left in the most peril, as he battles a leak-ridden boat in shark-infested waters, resolutely refusing to give up hope that he will get back to his daughter.

Anyone who has seen the delightful Little Miss Sunshine will quickly attest to the fact that Abigail Breslin's considerable talent is wasted here. Though Breslin acquits herself well and is as likeable as ever, the material she is given borders on the patronizing. Gerard Butler is given little to do in the role of Jack, except fall off his boat a lot and scream into the face of storm after storm. In his role as Foster's imaginary friend, he gets the chance to deliver a few more lines, but none that amount to anything more than cliché-ridden drivel about "being the hero of your own story." Despite that, it's Foster who gets the worst deal. Slapstick is not a good fit for Foster. While I applaud her (along with Butler and Breslin) for trying out something a bit different, it seems a real waste of a great talent.

Blighted by logic-defying escapades and far too many coincidences (a tropical storm, a monsoon, and pirates—all in the space of four days?), Nim's Island asks the viewer to acquiesce once (or twice) too often. Even with so much going on, the film struggles to entertain. Growing up, I'd have turned this film off within 10 minutes. How this will play to today's youngsters I can't say for sure; based on my nephews, in a world where boys have Spider-Man and The Incredible Hulk delivering action aplenty, while the girls are being catered to by the likes of Hannah Montana, it's difficult to see where Nim's Island is going to find an audience.

As is the norm for Fox screener copies, the quality of the image is hampered, meaning the retail product should lack the macro-blocking evident here. However, the image presented is imbued with a rich color palette and is consistently sharp, while the 5.1 soundtrack is put to great use during the film's numerous storm sequences.

The commentary tracks are both aimed primarily at children, with the Foster/Breslin track being the more entertaining of the two. The disc's three featurettes are certainly worth a viewing; most entertaining are "Nim's Friends" and "Working on Water," both admittedly short. Of most interest are the deleted scenes, which hint at a more substantial film, making the final product even more disappointing. Guilty.

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Scales of Justice

Judgment: 70

Perp Profile

Studio: Fox
Video Formats:
• 2.35:1 Anamorphic
Audio Formats:
• Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
• Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (French)
• Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (Spanish)
• English
• Spanish
Running Time: 96 Minutes
Release Year: 2008
MPAA Rating: Rated PG
• Adventure
• Comedy
• Drama
• Family

Distinguishing Marks

• Commentary with Jodie Foster and Abigail Breslin
• Commentary with Directors Mark Levin and Jennifer Flackett
• "Nim's Friends"
• "Abigail's Journey"
• "Working on Water"
• Deleted Scenes


• IMDb
• Official Site

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