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Surprisingly Complex Family Film: Nim's Island

Published April 3, 2008 in Movie Reviews
By Fred Topel | Image property of Fox Walden
Nim's Island Poster Nim's Island
Well, Nim's Island starts out with a dead mother, so it's already got the makings of a family film classic. When they start telling stories using cutout figures, I don't even know if you call that animation but it's cool. Pretty soon, this becomes quite a complex family film, and that's the kind I like.

Review: Nim's Island

Nim (Abigail Breslin) lives on an island with her marine biologist father Jack (Gerard Butler) reading stories about action hero Alex Rover (also Butler). The author of these stories is Alexandra Rover (Jodie Foster), and OCD agoraphobic in San Francisco. She gets in touch with Nim for some research while Jack is away on an excursion. Nim thinks it's the actual Alex Rover, and when Jack is lost at sea, turns to her hero for help.

Whew, that's the basics. I love that it's so complicated. The film really gives you three action stories of survival. Jack's survival on the wrecked boat trying to get home is cool for its basic practicality. Nim's survival alone on the island is a wonderful, magical type of youth empowerment. Alexandra's neurotic quest is just big, silly fun.

The film is full of nice little touches, like the visualization of Nim reading the adventure story, and other types of animated interludes. The parallels between stories are well done, simple match cuts that make the connections obvious but not obnoxious. The visual effects are good. Again, it's simple stuff, like a child in an extreme situation or some animals doing things slightly more intelligent than they could be trained to do.

Jodie Foster is truly the greatest actress ever. She relishes the big, broad OCD antics of Alexandra, doing silly African dances and pratfalls. It's not in a superior sort of way either, like she's slumming it. She's doing it right, just fully expressive in this fun popcorn movie.

Abigail Breslin is having so much fun with all her animals. Butler will make the ladies swoon twice, as the perfect father and the macho action hero.

It is also another film that gives kids some real metaphysics to chew on. It respects them with big words and to keep straight all the fantasy worlds. The film handles all the misunderstandings this requires respectfully. It never asks us to believe something contrived.
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Fred Topel
Sources: Image property of Fox Walden

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