Little Miss Sunshine rises again.
Directors: Jennifer Flackett and Mark Levin
Notable Cast: Abigail Breslin, Jodie Foster, Gerard Butler
Ah, to live the life of an agoraphobic serial writer; a life where being two weeks past deadline and dropping everything to find a little girl living on a remote island that no one has ever seen before is a completely acceptable practice.
Author Alexandra Rover is the type of neurotic ball of nerves one expects Jodie Foster to play in her charming style. While researching volcanoes for her newest entry in the Alex Rover series, Alexandra attempts to contact the acclaimed but guarded scientist Jack Rusoe (Gerard Butler). Instead she reaches Jack’s daughter, Nim (Abigail Breslin), while Jack is off doing research.
Coincidentally, Nim is a huge fan of Alex Rover’s exploits because she thinks the character truly exists and that his exploits are real. When Nim’s father becomes lost at sea, Nim elicits Rover’s help. Oh, but the twist is that the real Rover hasn’t left the house in 16 months and is, in actuality, not much of an adventurer at all. But Nim is scared and alone and protective of her island. She asks Alexandra not to tell anyone the island’s exact location.
With that basic knowledge, Alexandra feels it is solely her duty to rescue Nim, but there is still the small matter of leaving the sanctity of her San Francisco home. What little courage is manifest in Alexandra takes shape in her imaginary personification of Alex Rover (Butler pulling double duty). Alexandra’s internal struggle ends when her fantasy quite literally pulls her out the front door. After that it is best to ignore the fact that she was suffering from a nearly debilitating case of agoraphobia and instead enjoy Foster playing Alexandra as an eccentric, shut-in, adventure author who hates adventure and is in the middle of a nervous breakdown.
Meanwhile, the forces Nim must confront are strictly external as her island is discovered by a cruise line and the beach is used for a luau. Nim desperately wants to preserve the pristine nature of her island while simultaneously coping with the possibility that her dad may never return. Of course, the audience knows Jack is doing everything in his power to get back to his daughter, but that does not lessen the tension of the proceedings.
If Nim’s Island doesn’t sound like a typical family movie, that is because it is better than the average fair. The reason is largely thanks to directors/co-writers Jennifer Flackett and Mark Levin’s unique style and story arc. While many kid adventure movies are anxious to get on with the quest, Flackett and Levin are smart enough to know that the true suspense lies within the journey. The three primary characters do not all meet until the third act, and by then most viewers should be so engrossed with the story that they hardly notice.
Jack, Alexandra, and Nim all seek to reach one another to end their adventures not to begin them. Each character shows that he or she is fully capable of being alone against his or her enemies, both internal and external. The island metaphor here is not exactly subtle, but it is a more respectful approach to a family movie than the usual fair. Nim could have done just fine on her own, but no man is an island, even when that “man” is a little girl with her very own island.
FINAL RATING (ON A SCALE OF 1-5 BUCKETS):