Children love adventure stories, especially ones that involve imaginary characters, frightful situations and animals. That's why Wendy Orr's novel Nim's Island made a good adaptation for the big screen.
Abigail Breslin helps her character live out the theme of Nim's Island -- Be the hero of your own story. The beginning of the film explains through some engaging art drawings and a voice-over how Nim lost her mother when she was a young girl. Her father, Jack (Gerard Butler), is loving and resourceful. A scientist who needs to do research, he thinks Nim is ready to go live on a deserted island.
Gerard Butler as Jack
Nim names the island after herself and in no time at all feels right at. She quickly adopts a family; a dancing sea lion she names Selkie, Fred a lizard and constant companion who Nim runs every decision by and Juno a pelican who obviously understands every conversation with Nim.
What kid wouldn't want their own awe-inspiring adventurous paradise right outside their door. With the ocean in front, a volcano behind, a tree house for observation and lots of places to discover, Nim quickly becomes the Robinson Crusoe of her own life. An avid reader, when she's home Nim loves to get lost in her favorite adventure story about Alex Rover – an Indiana Jones clone.
Gerard Butler as Alex Rover
Because Jack is so sure she can take care of herself, he honors her pleas to remain behind when he takes off on an overnight boating expedition. Neither expected the sudden storm that leaves him knocked out, his boat disabled and his island home with Nim a wreck.
Nim tries to keep her chin up for the first day but when no word comes from Jack, she's frightened. When an email pops up on the screen asking some technical questions and Nim realizes it's from Alex Rover – or who she thinks is Alex Rover – she's excited. Actually it's from Alexandra (Jodie Foster), an agoraphobic writer who lives in the persona of Alex Rover.
How a frightened 11-year-old and a woman who is so afraid of life outside her apartment she won't go out and get the mail come together is a far stretch. The scenes where Nim has to fight off island visitors from a cruise ship really diminishes the power of the movie's theme. Plenty of other things happen along the way that adults will just have to keep quiet about and forget any reasoning because this is a movie aimed at kids, and on that point it delivers.
Gerard Butler & Jodie Foster
In addition to the island fantasy, the adorable pets and Nim's courage and plucky sense of survival, the Alex Rover (Gerard Butler) elements are priceless. Rover becomes like a guardian angel to both Nim and Alexandra. Like a visible mentor to Alexandra, he guides and advises her while she writes, and she actually challenges him a time or two about the direction of the story.
Alex also appears to Nim, who when not surrounding her bed while she reads and fights off dangerous thieves with his sword, is somewhat of a father figure when she's without her dad.
Although Butler seemed totally unsuitable for this role and does go through a few unrecognizable accents; he cuts a fashionable resemblance to Indiana Jones and portrays both a caring individual and exciting adventurer quite well.
Jodie Foster is such an accomplished actress that even though her character is played way over the top, we have to buy into it. I particularly liked the scene where in order to take a break from her keyboard, she brings up a video of a tribe of natives doing a rigorous dance. Foster more than gets into that scene. This role really shows a comedic side of Foster we rarely see.
What can one say about the precocious and intelligent Abigail Breslin? An Oscar nominee for Little Miss Sunshine, she's made six movies since then and wowed us with her talent to transform into any character. It's Nim's enthusiasm, optimism, resourcefulness and love of reading that parents will welcome when bringing their children to this movie.
For my taste, relatively new screenwriters Joseph Kwong and Paula Mazur could have relied more on Nim's resourcefulness in the movie than silly Home Alone pranks, but again – adults have to bypass these reactions. The movie looks beautiful and the fun feels authentic.
Nim's Island brings a young girl and an afflicted woman together as the heroines of their lives and kids six and older will want to be on board for this fun adventure.
Photo credits: 20th Century Fox