Based on Wendy Orr's popular children's novel, Nim's Island is an engaging, family-friendly adventure with charming performances from Abigail Breslin and Jodie Foster.
Nim (Abigail Breslin) and her dad, Jack (Gerard Butler), have been tucked away on their own private tropical island since Nim's mom died. They live in a tricked-out treehouse, hang out with sea lions and marine iguanas, and only communicate with the rest of the world via email and satellite phone. It's all sunshine and blue waters until Jack heads out for a short research expedition and gets stranded by a nasty tropical storm, leaving Nim to fend for herself. At first she takes it in stride, but eventually, worried and lonely, she confesses some of her fears to her cyber pen pal/favorite writer, adventure novelist Alex Rover--never guessing that the intrepid hero she's imagined is really a neurotic, scaredy-cat woman (Jodie Foster). When tourists threaten the island, Nim asks Alex for help, challenging the writer to overcome her fears and become ''the hero of her own story.''
Nim's Island is the first lighthearted movie Foster has made in quite awhile and her first family film in decades. Watching her warm, funny, accessible performance, you have to hope that she's got more of both on tap. She makes Alex--whose quirks are markedly more exaggerated here than in the book--endearingly idiosyncratic rather than creepily irrational. She tackles both physical humor and dramatic moments with gusto, and the scenes in which she bickers with Butler (who does double duty as Jack and ''Alex Rover''--the physical embodiment of the Indiana Jones-like hero of Alex's books) are charming. Breslin is, as ever, an appealing, expressive kid; alone on the island, she spends many of her scenes interacting only with Nim's animal pals and/or the computer, and she keeps the energy level up nicely. Wild-haired and sun-kissed, she seems like a real girl, not a starlet in training.
When your movie takes place in a tropical paradise that comes complete with the coolest jungle abode this side of Swiss Family Robinson, beautiful beaches, and even a slightly rumbly volcano, you don't need to do too much except point the camera at the action. Directors Mark Levin and Jennifer Flackett do a fine job on that front, turning Nim and her sanctuary into something out of a kid's wildest imagination. That makes some of the movie's weaknesses--predictable bits like the scene in which Nim and her animal pals dance around the fire, Jack's frequently cheesy dialogue, Alex's unrealistically quick transformation from agoraphobic to trailblazer--forgivable. Bottom line? In an era when so many kids' movies rely on special effects and flashy animation to grab an audience's attention, an old-fashioned adventure like Nim's Island is a refreshing island breeze
Hollywood.com rated this film 3 stars.