Nim’s Island – Family Movie Review

Movie Mama Rating: 3 out of 5

Starring: Jodie Foster, Abigail Breslin, Gerard Butler, Alphonso McAuley, Peter Callan

Directed By: Mark Levin, Jennifer Flackett

Running Time: 1 hr. 36 min.

MPAA Rating: PG for mild adventure action and brief language.

Nim Russo (Abigail Breslin) is an 11-year-old girl who lives on a secret island with her father, a marine biologist named Jack. When Jack (Gerard Butler) embarks on a sea voyage, hoping to find an undiscovered protozoan, a terrible storm leaves him lost at sea. While Nim awaits the return of her father all alone, she finds herself facing a throng of obstacles. She must guard the secret island from cruise-ship tourists in a style similar to Home Alone, protect her island home against two intense monsoons, and attempt to doctor a five-inch gash on her leg. When it seems all of these hardships are too much for her to bear, she contacts Alex Rover, the hero from her favorite adventure-book series. But the author of the best-selling books is nowhere near as brave as the heroic character she has created. In fact, Alexandra Rover (Jodie Foster) is an agoraphobic and hasn’t left her house in four months. But when she receives Nim’s distress call, Alexandra faces her fears and stops at nothing to find Nim and protect her.

Nim’s Island is what you could call a girl’s version of Robinson Crusoe. They even have similar sounding last names: Crusoe and Russo. Although I have no doubt young girls will enjoy the film, it felt a bit “churned out,” as though Walden Media was too busy making the next Narnia film into a true blockbuster to give any deserving effort to Nim’s Island. There are a few lovely shots of tropical scenery amidst corny lines, a forgettable and almost unnoticeable musical score, Nim’s annoying habit of always giving a ‘thumbs up,’ and a barrage of advertising from Random House, Purell, Apple Computers, Progresso soup, National Geographic, Expedia.com, and others.

The most noticeable flaw in the film was that it was dramatically unrealistic. For one, it doesn’t seem probable that a girl who lives on such an adventuresome island has a passion for sitting in her bed for hours with her nose in a book. It also doesn’t seem plausible that she doesn’t mind cooking all her own meals, eating meal worms, or home schooling herself. I’m also confused at how Nim and Jack seem to have the ability to communicate with some of the island animals. Is the island magic? Are Nim and Jack magic? Did I miss something?

I’m not saying that fiction has to be absolutely plausible-where would be the fun in that? But good fiction has to at least make you feel like it could be possible. There has to be a thread of truth entwined in the story to make it work. Take the book and Disney film Tuck Everlasting for example. It’s highly unlikely that a family could find the fountain of youth and never age another year in their lives, let alone keep their existence a secret from the surrounding community. But the craftsmanship of the story and the enchantment of the characters makes it somewhat believable. This tiny thread of reality is what Nim’s Island is lacking. The portrait that the directors paint is not one of an intriguing island paradise, but rather one of a very lonely, isolated, cold, and flat world. I know I wouldn’t want to visit Nim’s Island, even if I was still a little girl.

PROS

Although the film doesn’t go into detail about how Nim’s mother died, there is an overarching theme that relates to the loss of one or both parents. Throughout it all, Nim retains an unusually cheery attitude concerning her unconventional life and the absence of her parents. This shows unwavering faith and perseverance.

The film touches on the importance and even the fun of reading, learning, and imagination. You could even use the enthusiasm toward knowledge portrayed in this film to spur your kids toward learning something new.

The most interesting part of the film for me was the reclusive life of the author, Alexandra Rover. Jodie Foster is infectious in her portrayal of this character, and I would have liked to see a few more scenes regarding her lifestyle instead of Nim’s. The persistence in which Alexandra overcomes her fear of the outside world to come to Nim’s aid is admirable and heroic.

Also, the PG-rating claims there is ‘brief language,’ however it must have been extremely brief because I did not catch any offensive language in the entire film.

CONS

I’m not really sure why, but Nim often calls her father by his first name, Jack, instead of “Dad.” Some kids might want to pick up this habit after seeing it in the film, thinking it will make them sound more grown up.

The directors and script writers ask us to believe a lot regarding the capabilities of an 11-year-old girl. She knows how to rappel off the sides of mountains, repair solar panels, react responsibly in the face of intense storms, and stay home alone…in the middle of a jungle. In fact, I felt the ‘create your own adventure’ theme might urge kids to believe they can attempt highly unlikely and dangerous feats without ever thinking about the consequences.

There is a scene where a sea lion produces a lot of flatulence. A very plump woman on the cruise ship reveals a lot of sun-burnt cleavage, and her husband attempts to ogle every female who crosses his path. In a desperate attempt to rid her island of tourists, Nim catapults about a hundred lizards and bearded dragons at the intruders, hoping to scare them. Not only is this inhumane, I would hate for any child to start flinging their pet lizard around the house, thinking this was a good or safe idea!

OVERALL

At times the film lingers on scenes a bit too long, which might cause a young child to start fidgeting, but all in all, Nim’s Island should be a clean and harmless choice for a night out with the kids.

Reviewing Your Family History

There is a feeling that a family history can be written and left as a static piece of work. As we move further and further into the digital world, more and more databases, other family histories, open records, and other sources of information come to light.

Reviewing your family history using the new additions to the online world of genealogy can help solve some lingering old mysteries. For instance, my great-grandmother remarried in 1902 and she died in 1949. I had no death date for her second husband. It was sometime before 1949 and after 1911. His name was in the 1911 Canadian census records.

The 1921 Canadian census records were released in 2013 and the second husband was still alive then too. So now the potential range of death dates has been narrowed by ten years. This does not provide a full answer to the question but it helps narrow the field.

However in reviewing more records, I discovered that Great Aunt Amy who married a widower with one child had actually married a widower who had three children. This set me off on a quest to find out what happened to the other two children.

The more information that is out there, the more information you will find. Reviewing your files of family history details will add detail and richness to the information you already have. You can layer on facts that will provide links to more family.

There is another benefit to reviewing your genealogy. Our lives change. If I stuck with the version of the family history that was accurate twenty years ago, I would miss details that matter. For instance, I got married, both my sisters got divorced. Dad died. I have two new grandsons and a new daughter-in-law.

Family history is a living thing. It grows and changes. The goal is to recreate the lives of our ancestors. The more details we get right, the better we understand the people of the past.

We have a duty to keep accurate records for future generations. Sometimes things become so complex in our lives that unless we get it all written down in a clear and understandable manner, future generations can leap to erroneous conclusions about who are siblings and who are aunts and uncles.

How you carry out your review depends on your approach to family history. Some people like to focus on the current family and keep those records updated. Others like to focus on difficult ancestors and keep returning to the records that might reveal more on the life and times of that ancestor.

How often you carry out the review depends on you as well. Some people have a routine that has them review their history on a regular basis and others just cycle through their family history and occasionally update records as they discover something new.