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April 9, 2008

FILM REVIEW: Nim’s Island Jodie Foster’s Show to Steal


By Nathaniel Shockey

To me, Jodie Foster has always been effective but annoying. I agree that she deserved the Oscar for Silence of the Lambs, and has obviously earned her stardom through a lifetime packed with winning performances. But whether it is her strange manner of speaking, or the speech she gave at the University of Pennsylvania (quoting Eminem’s Lose Yourself – was she serious?), she has managed to continuously rub me the wrong way.


Gerard Butler, on the other hand, is currently on my list of people whose films I’ll see just because he’s in them. And so, I recently saw Nim’s Island.


To my surprise, it is Foster who steals the show.


She plays an agoraphobic author, Alexandra Rover, who writes stories about an adventurer named Alex Rover. The moral of the books she writes is, “Be the hero of your own life story,” which obviously makes a raging agoraphobic a raging hypocrite. But – strong-armed by her imaginary protagonist (played by Gerard Butler) – she leaves her house in San Francisco, kicking and screaming, to go help a young girl whose father is caught in a storm on the ocean.


Abigail Breslin plays the young girl, Nim, and those who aren’t convinced that Breslin is the real deal should be a lot closer to being convinced after watching this movie. There are understandably a lot of comparisons between Jodie Foster, the child actress, and Breslin, who has already been nominated for an Oscar. Breslin has a lot more movies to make before we can reach any sort of conclusions, but suffice it to say that she is charming as a cute, innocent kid, and much less annoying than Dakota Fanning (pardon the shameless comparison).


She’s believable, which is what matters. And it’s rather nice that she has yet to play any role as serious as the child prostitute in Taxi Driver or the young girl in Hounddog, roles in which a young actress seems obligated to prove herself. As Nim, she cries well, interacts meaningfully with her pet lizard and seal and has some incredibly moving scenes both with Butler (who also plays her father) and Foster. I look forward to seeing her grow up as an actress.


Some critics of this film note its implausibility, which would be understandable if it weren’t for kids. And let’s not forget, it’s OK for things to be implausible if the acting holds up. As long as we can emotionally attach to the characters, the whole thing can take place on Neptune.


One thing that bothered me a little was Gerard Butler’s lousy American accent. As Alex Rover, the adventurer, his Scottish accent works, but when he plays an American dad, his Scottish accent shouldn’t come through. He seems to try to veil it, but he doesn’t succeed. However, the movie effectively puts the audience in a light-hearted, childlike state of mind from the opening credits, which seriously diminishes the importance of any failed attempt at sounding 100 percent American.


The funniest part of the movie is when Nim starts launching lizards at a group of vacationers to protect the sanctity of her secret island. I laughed uncontrollably at a close-up in which the eyes of her pet lizard, Fred, are open wide as he’s flying through the air, screaming a lot like Ice Age’s “Scrat.” It was ridiculous and I loved it.


This movie succeeds as a family film because of the incredible warmth and believability of its characters. There aren’t any serious villains in the movie aside from a rather menacing monsoon and Foster’s agoraphobia, but these proved to be more than enough.


The best, and most poignant scene in the movie features Nim and Rover, sitting side by side, watching the ocean. Nim tells Rover she has accepted that her dad isn’t coming home. “You got all the way here and you can’t do anything. If my Dad’s boat were still working, he’d by home by now.” Rover, the recovering agoraphobic, knows she’s been pegged. She courageously responds that no matter what happens, she won’t let Nim be alone.


I laughed, I nearly cried, and it was Foster and Breslin who made this feel-good movie work. If you have a kid, go see it. If you don’t but you need an emotional lift, see it anyway.


4 out of 5 stars


© 2008 North Star Writers Group. May not be republished without permission.


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