Nim's Island (U)



Family (2008)
95mins US

Starring: Abigail Breslin, Jodie Foster, Gerard Butler
Director: Jennifer Flackett, Mark Levin
Writer(s): Joseph Kwong, Paula Mazur, Mark Levin, Jennifer Flackett
Listings: London | Rest of UK and Ireland

Nim lives on a lush South Pacific island with her father Jack, where he studies plankton while the youngster amuses herself with her animal chums. In quieter moments, Nim loves to settle down with the latest Alex Rover book, following the escapades of the eponymous gung-ho hero who travels around the world hunting for treasure. When Jack is lost at sea, Nim sends an urgent SOS to the writer of the books, Alexandra Rover, who is actually agoraphobic and compulsive obsessive, and lives in San Francisco, far from the tropical locations that she writes about with such verve and imagination.

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LondonNet Film Review
Nim's Island.

If any more proof were needed that 12-year-old Abigail Breslin, the Oscar nominated star of Little Miss Sunshine, is on the brink of global superstardom then look no further than Nim's Island.

Nim's Island. Universal Pictures UKThe diminutive actress takes top billing for this fun and frothy girl's own adventure above two-time Academy Award winner Jodie Foster and swarthy action man Gerard Butler (300, P.S. I Love You). Breslin fully merits the honour - she is absolutely luminous as a plucky tyke stranded on a tropical island, while her father is lost as sea. She doesn't strike a single false emotional note and finds a pleasing balance between gentle humour (interactions with her larger than life animal chums) and the inevitable tears as the prospect of solitude weighs heavily on her character's shoulders.

Foster makes her first foray into broad comedy and slapstick since the disastrous Maverick with Mel Gibson in 1994, and here she is hilarious, playing an agoraphobic and compulsive obsessive who almost hyperventilates when she runs out of antiseptic hand wash. The tantalizing prospect of uniting two generations of Hollywood's finest acting talent on screen for the first time sustains our interest for a spry and surprisingly eventful 95 minutes.

Nim (Breslin) lives on a lush South Pacific island with her scientist father Jack (Butler), who studies plankton while the youngster amuses herself with her animal chums: Selkie the sea lion, Galileo the pelican and Fred the bearded dragon. In quieter moments, Nim loves to settle down with the latest Alex Rover book, following the escapades of the eponymous gung-ho hero who travels round the world, hunting for treasure and overcoming devious traps. When Jack is lost at sea during a monsoon, Nim sends an urgent email SOS to the writer of the books. "I can't be the hero of my own story," she writes. "I can't do this all by myself. Help me Alex Rover!"

Nim's Island. Universal Pictures UKLittle does Nim know that Alex is actually Alexandra (Foster), a recluse who lives in San Francisco, far from the tropical locations that she writes about with such verve and imagination. Despite her all-consuming fear of the outside world, Alexandra is moved by Nim's plight and she follows the girl's co-ordinates - 20 degrees south, 162 degrees west - reluctantly boarding a plane, accompanied by her fictional hero (also played by Butler), who no one else can see. The imaginary Alex spurs on the writer ("What are you afraid of," he barks; "Everything!" she whimpers) and in the process, Alexandra realises that it's much more fun to embark on an adventure in person than in your head.

Nim's Island defies expectations, ending shortly after Alexandra stumbles onto the golden sands of the titular retreat. Flackett and Levin's film is much more interested in the journeys - literal and emotional - of the characters as they repel invading tourists (with the help of homemade slingshots and the local wildlife) or muster the determination to simply step outside their front door, albeit with some resistance. Foster is highly amusing, trading verbal quips with Butler's fictional swashbuckler (and even mocking his Glaswegian burr!) and admonishing island locals about their slovenly hygiene when handling goats.

Nim's Island. Universal Pictures UKBreslin tugs the ol' heartstrings as her whippersnapper breaks down at the prospect of never seeing daddy dearest again, but she also has some lighter moments, including travelling through the treetops on a zip-line, diving with Selkie and inadvertently causing a volcano to erupt. Vital lessons about courage ("It's not just in you, it's in every choice you make") are a little heavy-handed and some of the soul-searching is a tad cloying but younger audiences, especially, will lap up Nim's gung-ho exploits and wish they too could escape from the classroom to run amok with magical animal friends.

- Kim Hu


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