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.
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.
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!
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.