Judge Clark Douglas once romanced a stone. It didn't work out, sadly.
Our review of Nim's Island, published August 5th, 2008, is also available.
Be the hero of your own story.
"Nobody invades my island and gets away with it!"
Facts of the Case
A young girl named Nim (Abigail Breslin, Little Miss Sunshine) lives a pretty exciting life. Her father (Gerard Butler, 300) is an adventurous marine biologist. They live on a deserted island filled with beautiful plants and animals. Nim is homeschooled by her father and gets to spend much of her time helping him with his research. She loves her island life. Nim also loves to read, particularly the "Alex Rover" novels, an adventure series about an Indiana Jones-style hero.
The novels are written by Alexandra Rover (Jodie Foster, Panic Room), a single woman who is a slave to her own phobias. She is terrified by bugs and spiders, and tries to make sure she has a massive stock of hand sanitizer available to keep her hands germ-free. She hates going outside her apartment, because the real world is "unclean." She's currently writing the newest "Alex Rover" book, but seems to be getting stuck. So, she sends an e-mail to the marine biologist as "Alex," hoping to get a little bit of help from an expert on life in the wild. The e-mail is intercepted by Nim, who eagerly starts correspondence with "Alex."
Meanwhile, Nim's father has not returned from what should have been a quick trip out to sea on his boat. Alexandra becomes very worried when she discovers that Nim is a young girl alone on a deserted island. She attempts to get local law enforcement agencies to go out and check on the girl, but none of them responds. Nervously, Alexandra determines to conquer her phobias and travel to the island to rescue Nim…but Nim thinks she's getting an action hero, not a paranoid writer.
Yes, Nim's Island is every bit as silly as it sounds. Despite that, I imagine most young kids will find it an enchanting viewing experience. What 10-year-old girl or boy wouldn't want to live on a cool island having tons of fun adventures? When I was young, I always wanted to live in that tree house in The Swiss Family Robinson. Living in a tree house on a deserted island, building traps for tigers, and battling pirates? Sweet! I imagine that I would have felt the same way about living on Nim's Island at that age. The story is not remotely credible, but who needs credibility in a movie like this? It's an adventure movie for kids. At first, one is tempted to make comparisons to Romancing the Stone or the Indiana Jones movies, but the film is honestly closer in spirit to the aforementioned Swiss Family Robinson or those entertainingly goofy Ray Harryhausen films (though obviously lacking the cool stop-motion creature effects…instead we have boring old CGI).
At the very least, you have to give Nim's Island credit for being reasonably original. A good chunk of the film centers on the e-mail correspondence between Nim and Alexandra. These are filmed in a pretty interesting manner. As Nim reads her e-mails, Alex appears in the background and quotes the e-mail. As Alexandra reads her e-mails, Nim appears in the room and does the same thing. The rest of the film follows suit, constantly blurring the line between fiction and reality in a whimsical manner. There's a wonderful prologue sequence featuring paper cutouts that nicely sets the tone for everything.
Jodie Foster's performance is frankly pretty silly. She over emotes a lot and willingly behaves in a wacky manner quite frequently. She's definitely playing the part as if she's performing for a group of kids, but I'm willing to forgive that. Foster deserves a chance to play a fun part with absolutely no substance whatsoever; it's a nice break from her countless turns as a victimized woman in violent crime thrillers. Gerard Butler is pleasant and convincing as Nim's kind father, but hams it up during his scenes as Alex Rover. The film belongs to Abigail Breslin, who is filling her role as the new Dakota Fanning quite nicely. Her obvious enthusiasm goes a long way towards making the movie work.
The hi-def transfer is pretty gorgeous, beautifully highlighting the lush scenery in the film. Flesh tones are good, blacks are deep. The lossless audio is excellent, as you would expect it to be. Patrick Doyle's robust score blends nicely with all the nature sounds on the island. The disc is jam-packed with extras, though these are hit-and-miss. A commentary with Jodie Foster and Abigail Breslin has a couple of nice moments, but it's very quiet…there are way too many dead spots to make it a worthwhile listen. A track featuring the writing/directing team of Mark Levin and Jennifer Flackett is more engaging. The "Nim's Spyglass Bonus View Mode" lets you watch the film with occasional video interviews and behind-the-scenes footage popping up here and there. Not a whole lot of interest there, honestly. There are three decent little featurettes (nice), three games for the kiddies (meh), a trivia track (okay), and deleted scenes (hit and miss).
The Rebuttal Witnesses
I must admit that I am concerned about a message that Nim's Island may be sending out unintentionally. Think about this for a moment. Nim receives an e-mail from someone she has never met. The e-mail asks, "Who are you, Nim? How old are you? Are you alone on your island?" Those questions have some creepy undertones outside the context of this movie. In today's world where internet predators are a very real and dangerous threat to children, ignorance of internet safety is not a good move in a movie aimed at young kids.
On a less important note, do we really need a farting seal in this movie? Or scenes where people get trapped inside port-a-potties that are subsequently knocked over? Come on. In fact, the whole sequence in which Nim must save her island from evil tourists by attacking them with various creatures is pretty wretched.
Would I recommend Nim's Island? That depends on who you are. Most kids will almost assuredly like it, and adults watching it with kids may find it pleasant, if not quite enjoyable. It's a good pick for babysitters, but aimed too specifically at kids to make it a worthwhile Friday night flick for the whole family.
Because I'm a nice guy, I'll go with not guilty. However, I'd better not see
any kind of Nim's Island 2 monkey business going on. Court is
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Scales of Justice
• Commentary w/Jodie Foster and Abigail Breslin
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