Movie Review: Nim’s Island (2008)
Nim’s Island is the latest addition to the ever growing list of children books that have been adapted to the big screen. This time however, instead of taking place in part or in whole in some fantastical fantasy realm (Harry Potter series, The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe), this movie has its feet planted firmly in reality and intersects the lives of a young girl and a woman who she thinks is her hero.
And unlike the two aforementioned movies, Nim’s Island fails to please even though it has two strong actresses starring in it – Jodie Foster, comfortably on top of the heap and Abigail Breslin, rising fast. It turns out to be a case where directors Jennifer Flackett and Mark Levin tried to capture the whimsy and the light-heartedness of the story much to hard, leaving their actors to flail in the wind like a flag in a hurricane. The final product, which succeeds in not taking it seriously (as I expect was planned), is confusing, unrealistic and, for lack of a better word, mind numbingly stupid. That’s right, the entire production comes off as D-U-M-B, dumb.
At fault first for me was the blandness of the story itself. It’s about a young girl named Nim (Breslin) who ends up left alone on an uncharted tropical island when her father Jack Rusoe (Gerard Butler) gets lost at sea, and Alexandra Rover (Foster), an author with agoraphobia trying like hell to reach her. While alone, Nim has to brave through a monsoon and shortly thereafter ward off cruise line tourists from making their way to “her” island. Alexandra, on the other hand, has to get over fears of crowds and public places – so of course she finds herself in airports and bustling, impoverished open air markets – while breaking away from the character (named Alex Rover) she created and has been living her life through. Neither character is particularly likable (hell, I’ll say it – Nim is a little bitch), so it was all the more painful to sit through for 90+ minutes without squirming in my seat.
Speaking of roles, I must also say that while Abigail Breslin does have a bright future, she was completely out of sorts in this film. Whereas she was very natural and authentic in both No Reservations and Little Miss Sunshine, here she comes across like this role was her absolute first and she had no idea on what to do. She overacts – both in her lines and her behavior – and at times I actually thought I caught her taking glimpses into the camera. Foster, whom I still believe is one of the best dramatic actresses alive, also did more harm to Nim’s Island than good. Her strong point is certainly not prat falls and acting like a doofus yet that’s exactly what her character asked of her to do.
As to the fact that Nim’s Island is supposed to be a silly, family movie, I suppose it succeeds on some level. Kids will get a kick out of the seal, lizard and pelican – these animals understand Nim and her father and actively help them out of their dire situations by doing some very interesting manuevers. There’s also a few laughs to be found at the expense of a chubby tourist kid (Maddison Joyce) and his parents, and a couple more from watching Alexandra bumble her way through some ridiculous moments.
Mostly though, I found myself wondering why a movie was being made of a book with little to no fanfare – I’ve never heard of it (not that that matters much) and it is my understanding it was published only five or six years ago – and whether or not it is as bad as the movie. Immediately thereafter, I realized I didn’t care; I’m certainly never going to read it. Nim’s Island? Looks good on a postcard, but she can keep it.