By Ted Faraone
04.4.2008 | By Ted Faraone |
Rated: PG for mild adventure action and brief language.
Release Date: 2008-04-04
Starring: Joseph Kwong, Paula Mazur, Jennifer Flackett, Mark Levin
Official Website: http://www.nimsisland.com/
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First, the good news: Jodie Foster can play comedy. As agoraphobic, obsessive compulsive action novelist Alexandra Rover in “Nim’s Island,” an adaptation by Joseph Kwong, Paula Mazur, and co-directors Mark Levin and Jennifer Flackett of Wendy Orr’s eponymous novel, Foster is both funny and convincing. At physical comedy she approaches Lucille Ball and Carol Burnett. “Nim’s Island” should earn Foster her fifth Oscar nomination.
Now the bad news: The screenplay does not do justice to the performances. Rather than show the idyllic love between 11-year-old prodigy Nim Rusoe (Abigail Breslin), her dad Jack (a scientist, the other half of Butler’s dual role), and their menagerie of almost-human animals on an uncharted island, the screenplay hammers it home. Every scene between Breslin and Butler fairly oozes saccharine.
Plot centers on the unlikely convergence of a monsoon, which maroons Jack in mid ocean, the chance discovery of the island by a cruise ship crew who resemble modern day pirates, and Alexandra “Alex” Rover’s writer’s block. With Jack gone, Nim reads his emails and answers one from Alex, her favorite novelist. An email relationship develops almost overnight. There’s a catch. Nim believes that Alex Rover, the author, is the swashbuckling, Indiana Jones – style adventurer of novels. Nim does not know that ‘he” is a “she,” let alone a nutcase. With her island about to be invaded by tourists and her dad in danger, Nim begs Alex to travel half-way around the world to come to her aid.
Challenged to overcome her fears, Alexandra’s inner conflict, played out with her alter ego, brings out just about every agoraphobic, obsessive compulsive joke that one can imagine, and Foster plays them to the hilt.
When the chips are down, Nim and Jack resort to the Mr. Wizardry that endeared the “MacGyver” TV show to a generation of kids. His mast broken by the monsoon, his boat leaking, Jack rigs a pump and fashions a propeller, turning his sailboat into an airboat. Nim enlists Selkie the sea lion to pass noxious gas near the tourists’ launch. She then catapults lizards onto their faces on the beach. Finally, she fakes a volcanic eruption – and gets a real one – to scare off the cruise ship crowd.
Expect PG-rated “Nim’s Island” to fare well with kids and fans of the novel.