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Nim's Island

Genre: , ,

Cast: Abigail Breslin, Jodie Foster, Gerard Butler, Michael Carman, Mark Brady, Christopher Baker

Director: Jennifer Flackett and Mark Levin

Rated: PG

Release Date: August 5th, 2008
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Overall Grade: C

Nim's Island

Review By: Staff

Nim’s Island

Walden Media's Nim's Island casts Abigail Breslin as the title character in the story about a girl who lives on a remote tropical island with her father. Nim's dad is a marine biologist who submits his work to the main land to be published in magazines. Nim spends her days playing with her three animal friends Selke the Sea Lion, Fred the Bearded Dragon, and Galileio the Pelican. She also enjoys reading adventure novels about a mythic hero named Alex Rover and using her far-reaching imagination to combine the real world with fantasy.

Rover resides in the pages penned by Alexandra Rover (played by Jodie Foster), an agoraphobic author from San Francisco who desperately tries to live an unadventurous life. Battling a case of writer's block, she wants her next novel to be more accurate and sends emails to Nim's dad to fact check some information about volcanoes. Since dad is currently out on the open ocean for two days studying sea life, Nim reads and responds to Alexandra's messages thinking she is talking to the adventure hero.

A storm comes and Nim's dad gets lost at sea with a damaged boat. After getting injured on some rocks, Nim gets worried and asks her internet friend for help. Even though she is afraid of the prospect of leaving her own home (she can't even get the mail from her mailbox), Alexandra decides she must help this young girl and make a trip to Nim's island to save her.

No worries, friends. This review is not just a summary of what happens in the movie. The lengthy explanation of the film's story is necessary because the construction of it's plot is what ultimately dooms Nim's Island. Small children, particularly girls around her age, will probably enjoy the interaction between Nim and the animals. If we have learned anything from Little Miss Sunshine and Definitely, Maybe, it's that Abigail Breslin can carry a film on the shoulders of her own charisma. She has the smile that lights up a room and the personality to keep it lit far longer than it should. Unfortunately, Nim's Island never gives us enough time to let her start the fire.

One of the major problems with the film's structure is the distribution of character prominence. The title suggests we should be watching Nim's story. In fact, Wendy Orr's book from which the film is based offers readers far more time with the girl than the movie does. Most of Breslin's screen time revolves around worrying about dad, hiding in her tropical sanctuary as high winds and torrential rain torture the terrain around her.

In fact, the story is as much about Rover as it is about Nim. This detail would work fine as two parallel narratives with similar

thematic material that eventually collide in the end. The writers love to remind us that the film is really about becoming the hero of your own life story. The problem is the film feels more weighted towards Rover's struggle to overcome her fear of risks than Nim's battle with being alone. Nim comes off as more of a victim of consequence than a true heroine. When a group of tourists threaten to take over her beach, her actions feel more like child's play than bold defiance.

The film is also hindered by the fact that the two storylines fail to connect as the plot unfolds. A story about a character making a trip from San Francisco to a tropical island is far from cinematic, especially if the story lacks conflict along the way. Rover's scenes bounce from one means of transportation to another with Foster overacting the entire way. These scenes have to be as boring for small kids as they were for me. Meanwhile, Nim remains on the island with not a whole lot to do either. Her battle with the tourists is not really a conflict because the newcomers only pose a threat within Nim's imagination. People who want to hang out on a beach for a while are not the most intimidating villains. Why couldn't they be real pirates? At least Nim would have some kind of an adventure.

As for the ending, I refuse to spoil third acts (regardless of how predictable they may be), but I will say love is more complicated than a montage on the beach with Bono singing in the background. The film closes on the same wrong note it begins.

Critics of this review will argue that I need to lighten up. After all, the movie is for kids and not for people like me. But kids movies need structure just as much as any other film. Mom and dad should know this well because if things get boring on screen, their children let them know. I champion their voices in giving Nim's Island a resounding, "Wah!"

DVD Features:

Unlike the movie, Nim's Island's bonus material offers us plenty of time with the leading lady. Breslin is featured in short vignettes that showcase more of her interaction with the animals and explain the process the filmmakers had to take in developing that relationship. The DVD also offers two audio commentaries. The more appealing one is a discussion between Breslin and Jodie Foster that offers some rewarding incite into the making of the film. Their interactions have added intrigue due to the fact that Foster was a child performer herself and has a lot in common with her fellow commentator. Everything on this disc adds more evidence to the fact that Breslin

is the most likeable child performer of this era. Let us hope her career lasts long.

Movie Grade: C-
Features Grade: B
Overall Grade: C

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