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With: Abigail Breslin, Jodie Foster, Gerard Butler
Written by: Joseph Kwong, Paula Mazur, Mark Levin, Jennifer Flackett, based on a novel by Wendy Orr
Directed by: Jennifer Flackett, Mark Levin
MPAA Rating: PG for mild adventure action and brief language
Running Time: 96
Date: 03/30/2008

Nim's Island (2008)

2 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

Coast Story

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

If Child Protective Services could get a load of eleven year-old Nim (Abigail Breslin), who lives alone on a remote South Pacific island with her marine biologist dad, Jack (Gerard Butler), talks to animals and doesn't go to school, there wouldn't be much of a movie here. Thankfully, they're nowhere to be seen, but Jodie Foster, who plays agoraphobic adventure writer Alex Rover, provides enough hand wringing to make up for them. Alex has e-mailed Jack about facts on volcanoes for her latest book, but instead reaches Nim, who is Alex's biggest fan (she thinks "Alex" is a man). When Jack goes off to search for new forms of sea life and goes missing in a storm, and "pirates" (actually tourists) threaten to invade Nim's island, Nim pleads for Alex to leave the safety of her sanitized apartment and help. Fortunately, Foster is a skilled enough performer that she plays the uptight writer with just the right balance of comedy, rather than the kind of overwhelming aggression that, say, Ben Stiller usually brings to this kind of overdone role. Likewise, Breslin has an appealing smile that helps her relax into her role.

Co-directors Jennifer Flackett and Mark Levin have clearly taken "Indiana Jones" as their inspiration; Alex often speaks to her imaginary, literary creation, an adventurer with her name, dressed like Indy in a fedora and leather jacket. The filmmakers manage to re-create the summery brightness of those films, achieving a refreshing, clean-air quality. But they utterly fail to capture the briskness and supple movement of an adventure film. Too often their cuts feel rushed and clumsy, perhaps to accommodate too many CGI creatures or digital stunt doubles into the action. Very often the movie feels set-bound as well. But for all that, Nim's Island is good-spirited and never stoops to toilet jokes or bodily functions for easy laughs -- even though all those CGI animals must have been tempting. Even the adults get to behave, for the most part, like adults, rather than cuckolds to make the kids seem smarter. Even though she's sometimes scared, this kid is smart all by herself.

DVD Details: Fox's fine 2008 DVD comes with a very nice commentary track with a goofy, babbling Breslin and an always-elegant (and intelligent) Foster, as well as a second track by the two directors. There are also optional French and Spanish-language tracks and various subtitles. The disc comes with three featurettes, deleted scenes, trailers and public service announcements. Nim's Island

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