The kids wanted to see Nim's Island long before it came out and I read the book aloud to them this spring as a prerequisite for watching the movie. But the spring slipped by and the movie left theatres before we were able to carve out time to see it. When the kids' summer matinee schedule was announced for a local theatre, I was very glad to see it included Nim's Island. Today we went with a group of friends to see it and I am SO GLAD we did.
What a wonderful movie! Who wouldn't want to live on this idyllic island, especially with most the comforts of home, including apparently high-speed internet! I'll admit to being very glad that Gerard Butler played both Nim's dad Jack and the fictional adventurer Alex Rover created by the writer of the same name (played by Jodie Foster). Lots of screen time for Gerry! Lots of appreciation from the moms accompanying their kids to this sold-out show!
Nim (Abigail Breslin) is an eleven-year-old girl who lives on an uncharted island with her scientist dad, Jack. He ventures out onto the ocean in search of a new plankton, reluctantly (and unwisely) leaving Nim alone on the island. What was supposed to be a two-day journey is complicated by a storm, and Jack doesn't return on time. Nim is understandably worried.
Nim's companions every day are a sea lion, a lizard, and a frigate bird. Through the help of these creatures, Nim manages to protect her secret island from uncouth tourists and a greedy cruise ship company. When she is injured, she discloses the location of their secret island to Alex Rover, in hopes that "he" will come to rescue her. However, she expects Alex Rover to be the brave male hero described in the books rather than the agoraphobic writer she actually is.
Jodie Foster has done a number of more serious and gritty movie roles, so this broadly-played character is something different for her, but she does it well. Alexandra is a woman who rarely even ventures out of her apartment, so to go halfway around the world to rescue a child she doesn't even know is a stretch for her! Foster hits the perfect balance between over-playing the comedy and making the scenes too serious.
Nim, played by Abigail Breslin, is all long tousled hair and brave smiles. Breslin settles into this role perfectly and is completely believable - scared and alone during the storms, ecstatically happy to see her dad, worried and angry when Alex shows up as a female writer instead of the hero she expected, brave and capable when protecting her island or making repairs to her home.
A dual role allowed Gerard Butler to be on-screen for much of the movie. His Indiana-Jones type swashbuckling character appears when Nim is reading the Rover books or when Alexandra talks to him. He talks back to Alexandra too. Jack is a bespectacled marine biologist who loves both his work and his daughter. In either of these roles, Butler is engaging and, well, just plain delightful. Of course, I admit to a small bias in this situation as Butler is on my List. (Do you have to ask what The List entails? I'm sure not.)
Little kids may be afraid during some of the tense scenes in which Jack fights the storm or when Nim falls down a steep mountainside. I heard one small child behind me ask in a frightened tone, "Is he dead?" (He's not.) My own six-year-old leaned in to my side and gripped my arm during a couple upsetting scenes, but I think she was enjoying 'being scared'.
There were a number of differences from the book, but I didn't find any of them to be too distracting. My kids noticed different ones than I found, but it didn't stop them from enjoying the film. I do recommend reading the book. The first draft of the book was written when the author was only nine years old!
Other than a few instances of taking the Lord's name in vain and the tense scenes, I found this movie to be very family-friendly. We plan to own it - all my kids loved it, from the happily frightened six-year-old to the oh-so-cool thirteen-year-old boy.
If you'd like to own either the book or the movie too, here are handy links!
SCREEN IT REVIEW
NIM'S ISLAND ON IMDB