April 03, 2008

Nim's Island

If you ask me about Hannibal Lecter
one more time...

Grade: D –
Director: Jennifer Flackett and Mark Levin
Starring: Jodie Foster, Abigail Breslin, and Gerard Butler
MPAA Rating: PG
Running Time: 1 hour, 35 minutes

I remember a time when a Jodie Foster-starring vehicle was presumptively viewed as a good, bankable movie. Nim’s Island – and Foster’s performance in it – is so insipid as to inspire the otherwise irrational question of why you ever thought she was a great actress. The first, and most telling, sign of trouble is the revelation that husband-and-wife directing team Jennifer Flackett and Mark Levin were brought in to rewrite screenwriters Joseph Kwon and Paula Mazur’s original adaptation of Wendy Orr’s adventure-fantasy book. A hydra-headed script is never a good sign, and Nim’s Island does nothing to allay any worries.

Abigail Breslin is the titular, precocious 11-year-old girl living with her marine biologist dad, Jack (Gerard Butler), on a secluded South Pacific isle. When a typhoon strands dad at sea aboard his clipper, Nim and her menagerie of animal mates are left to subsist for themselves. Despite the fact that Nim is equipped with Internet access and a satellite phone, the only person she thinks to reach out to is renowned pulp novel writer Alex Rover (Foster), who contacts the island by email while gathering research for her latest book.

Although Jack’s work was a cover story in National Geographic, and Alex somehow obtains his email address, Nim still asks Alex not to call for help because that would reveal the location of their “secret” island. Instead, Nim begs Alex to drop everything and make her way to the island to help Nim out.

Nim is unaware that Alex is really named Alexandra and far from a daring adventurer. Actually, Alexandra is a ball of hysterics and borderline psychotic, suffering from severe bouts of both Agoraphobia and Misophobia, along with a dependence on Progresso soup and Purell hand sanitizer (and, no doubt, their paid product placement). She is kept company only by the imaginary incarnation of her literary Alex Rover character (Butler, pulling double-duty).

While Alexandra traverses her way across the sea, Nim stars in her own island-bound version of Home Alone, fending off a flock of encroaching tourists (so much for her secret) by bombarding them with flying lizards and seal flatulence (yes, you read that correctly). She finally chases them away by managing to rouse a dormant volcano, which mysteriously stops erupting by the beginning of the next scene.

Meanwhile, Jack feverously tries to keep his damaged boat afloat while making declarative statements to the wind like, “I will get back and take care of Nim!,” exclamations that might read okay on the page but sound ridiculous onscreen. Frankly, little about this film makes sense, from Jack’s need to start deep-sea spear-fishing one day into his crippled voyage when he had already planned a two-day expedition, to a scene in which Alexandra is shown in her San Francisco flat practicing, rather inexplicably, the dinka island dance. And, a moratorium should be immediately imposed on all movies in which the characters speak out loud everything they read, write, and think.

The film’s ending is just as slipshod and stupid as the rest of this so-called “kids movie,” which is actually an insult to the intelligence of its target audience. If you find yourself marooned anywhere near Nim’s Island, pray you get voted off soon.

Neil Morris


Anonymous said...

Did you forget that this is a kids' movie? Oh, and an ADVENTURE movie? Sometimes we have to look at movies through the lenses in which they were meant to be watched; not our own adult view.

Anonymous said...

I absolutely agree with the first comment. That is a fantastic movie for the kids!