Nim's IslandBy Karen Wilson
MPAA Rating: PG for mild adventure action and brief language
Genre: Fantasy, Adventure
Release Date: April 4, 2008
Running Time: 1 hour 36 minutes
Plot Synopsis: On a remote island in the South Seas 11-year-old Nim (Abigail Breslin) lives happily with her reclusive father, the scientist Jack Rusoe (Gerard Butler). After Jack goes missing during a plankton expedition and Nim spies a cruise ship planning a landing on their beach, she reaches out via email to her favorite adventurer Alex Rover. Little does Nim know that Alex Rover is actually agoraphobic San Francisco writer Alexandra Rover (Jodie Foster). Despite her fears and phobias, Alex sets off for Nim’s island to help Nim and her dad.
Sex/Nudity: A romance ultimately develops between Alex and Jack when they finally meet, but we only see them hold hands.
Violence/Gore: Nim and her animal friends attack the cruise ship passengers trying to scare them away, Jack and Alex both go through a number of dangerous episodes trying to get back to the island, an imagined Alex Rover battles Bedouins in the newest adventure Nim is reading.
Which Kids Will Like It?
Nim lives in an amazing fantasy world, a bit of The Swiss Family Robinson meets Pippi Longstocking, which school age children and younger couldn’t help but love. Though older teenagers will probably find Nim’s adventures guarding her secret island while her father is missing on his expedition a little too far-fetched.
Will Parents Like It?
Adult fans of Jodie Foster’s work should be pleased to see her in a more comedic role than some of her recent violence-laden, action adventure parts. Many moms in the audience will also swoon a bit for Scottish actor Gerard Butler’s dual roles as the hunky Indiana Jones type adventurer Alex and the doting scientist father Jack.
Kaboose Review: Even when she was a child actor, Oscar-winner Jodie Foster always played characters that were a bit more mature and worldly than your average kid. While it’s been more than 30 years since she swapped bodies with her mother in Freaky Friday, Foster (now herself a mother of two) seems to still want to make fanciful and empowering entertainment for young viewers. In Nim’s Island, her newest movie that is based on the best-selling book by Wendy Orr, you can almost imagine Foster is passing on that noble tradition to another precocious young actress, Little Miss Sunshine’s Abigail Breslin.
Breslin plays the titular Nim, an only child living with her widowed father on a secret island in the South Seas. Both of Nim’s parents were scientists, but when Nim’s oceanographer mother passed away while researching whales, Nim’s dad Jack Rusoe retreated with Nim to the island, continuing to do his research on protozoa and publishing his articles but keeping their whereabouts secret. The two live in a Swiss Family Robinson set up for the digital age, complete with Macs, email and satellite telephones as well as quirky animal friends who help around the house. It’s a pretty dream scenario for an imaginative and inquisitive 11-year-old like Nim.
While a psychologist might worry that Nim’s isolated childhood doesn’t provide enough peer socialization, at least it hasn’t saddled her with any of the societal stigmas other young girls face. Nim never questions whether as a girl she can scale volcanoes or become a scientist. She has a few tearful moments of worrying about her father, when he goes missing while on a two-day expedition for a new specimen, but the little pep talks she tells herself to keep up her courage are admirable. Courage is a big theme in Nim’s Island, as the San Francisco writer Alexandra Rover, who tells heroic stories about the fictional adventurer Alex Rover, is struggling to find hers. Like Nim, Alex also lives an isolated life but that’s because her agoraphobia and germ phobia keep her trapped inside her apartment. When the two become friends over email (Alex is researching volcanoes like the one on Nim’s island), Alex finally comes out of her protective bubble to help Nim.
While some of the finale’s more slapstick elements are a bit outlandish, the movie’s adventurous spirit and subtle messages of female empowerment make it worth watching.
Directed by: Jennifer Flackett, Mark Levin
Cast: Abigail Breslin (Nim Rusoe), Jodie Foster (Alexandra Rover), Gerard Butler (Jack Rusoe)
Karen Wilson is a freelance writer living in New York City.