PG, 96 min, 2008

Directors: Jennifer Flackett, Mark Levin
Writers: Joseph Kwong (screenplay) & Paula Mazur (screenplay) and Mark Levin (screenplay) & Jennifer Flackett (screenplay), Wendy Orr (novel Nim’s Island)

Stars: Jodie Foster, Gerard Butler, Abigail Breslin

Here is a family film in which nothing much really happens but it’s all more or less pleasant enough while it’s…going on; 8-10 year-old girls will probably love it. Sadly though, I am not now nor have I ever been an 8-10 year-old girl.

Nim’s Island stars the ubiquitous Abigail Breslin as Nim Rusoe, the daughter of scientist Jack Rusoe (Gerard Butler of300), who has whisked her off to a deserted island “somewhere in the middle of the South Pacific” to live out their lives in an anonymous paradise. Nim, whose mother died when she was very young, is living an existence which has yielded a marvelous imagination, and is an avid fan of the apparently autobiographical adventure novels of Alex Rover (also portrayed by Butler in Nim’s imagination, etc.).

Unfortunately for Nim, the real Alex Rover is actually Alexandra Rover (Jodie Foster), a San Francisco obsessive-compulsive agoraphobe who can’t even stand to go out to the mail box when her mailman won’t leave the mail on the doorstep. As Jack goes off to find some new scientific specemine for his daughter, Nim is left alone on the island with her friendly computer-manipulated pets, such as a Pelican and a lizard.

Unfortunately, a ship called the Buccaneer (which Nim believes is full of pirates) arrives to assess the island as the future spot of a nice new beach resort. Nim, who has been corresponding via e-mail with Alexandra, asks for her help and while Jack is lost at sea and Alexandra makes a tenuous trip across the Pacific to find Nim and help her out (aided all the time by her male alter-ego, who exists entirely in her head), it is up to Nim to fend off the evil… resort planners. Home Alone-esque boobytraps ensue, vaguely, but nothing really sticks.

This is a movie in which hurricanes blow, parents are lost at sea, pirates (or resort tycoons) threaten to take over a “mysterious island” and the young heroine helps to change her idol for the better, all the while a volcano threatens to erupt, but those are all just “elements of the plot” – none of that really describes the experience of watching the film; it all kinda washes over you.

The film was co-written and directed by Jennifer Flackett and Mark Levin (who wrote Wimbledon and wrote and directed Little Manhattan) and is based on a popular children’s novel by Wendy Orr. I can barely fathom how this story makes for a film running over an hour and a half, let alone a full novel. Nevertheless, it’s light and pretty harmless and the target audience might like it.

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