Nim's Island – DVD Review

Available at Amazon.com

Nim (Abigail Breslin) and her scientist father Jack (Gerard Butler) live on their own private island paradise. Supplies are shipped in every other week so that they can have the things that they cannot provide for themselves: like clothing, scientific supplies needed by Jack for his work in the field, and books for Nim. Her favorite books are a series about an Indiana Jones style adventurer named Alex Rover (also played by Gerard Butler). Her friends on the island are various animals: a sea lion named Selkie, a bearded dragon named Fred, a turtle named Chica, and a pelican named Galileio.

One day, Jack sails away on a routine data collection trip when his small raft is caught in a storm and he is unable to return home when he promised. Nim is alone on the island. A cruise ship company docks on the island and Nim secretly watches as they make plans to turn the island into a hideaway for the weathy. Desperate to save their paradise, she goes to her father’s computer and searches for a contact to e-mail. She finds the name Alex Rover in her father’s inbox and sends a message for help to her hero.

“Alex Rover” is really Alexandra Rover, the author of the books Nim so loves. Ms. Rover happens to be agoraphobic and has been under self-imposed lockdown in her San Francisco apartment for a long time. Moved by Nim’s pleas, Rover leaves her apartment and sets out to find Nim’s island and help her find her father and save the island from corporate takeover.

Wow, three paragraphs to explain a children’s movie. I can’t remember the last time I watched a children’s movie that had this complicated a storyline. There is so much going on here! Even with the full script, the story feels a little lacking in places. Something that will be explained by watching the DVD features (see the Deleted Scenes below!). It seems editing was the downfall of the pacing. Otherwise, the movie is fun and exciting with plenty of twists and turns in the plot to keep even the adults guessing. With the whole stranded on a desert island thing, it’s hard not to compare Nim’s Island to the Disney classic The Swiss Family Robinson; a comparison that can’t hurt the movie. That’s one of the reasons why I wanted to watch it so badly: because I loved The Swiss Family Robinson so much as a child.

The casting in the film is strange, but very fitting. Abigail Breslin, after her star-making turn in Little Miss Sunshine, has become a go-to girl. This is fine with me. I think we were all getting a little tired of Dakota Fanning being in every movie that called for a little girl. I just hope Abigail Breslin doesn’t start wearing on everyone the way Fanning did. Seeing Jodie Foster’s name in a film like this is a little different, but she’s perfect for the germophobic Alexandra Rover. It’s fun seeing her in something other than a serious drama. She’s able to return to her Disney roots for awhile and let her hair down. She looks like she’s having a blast the entire time. Gerard Butler was a little head-scratching too. Fresh from the very un-kid-friendly 300 and the very adult female oriented P.S. I Love You, seeing him as a doting father is quite a treat. He’s got a lot on his plate here, playing two roles. As Nim’s father, he’s sweet, affectionate, but wanting to show his daughter how to do things for herself. As Alex Rover, he very much reminds me of Indiana Jones and I’m sure that’s the look they were going for. The only thing is that as Alex Rover, his Scottish accent comes through. For some reason it only comes through as Alex Rover, not as Jack. Very strange. It’s not distracting at all, just noticeable.

Nim’s Island is a fun film that really is for the whole family. Everyone will find something to like about this film. I mean, the main character is a little girl who lives on an island who loves to do things outside and loves to READ. She is encouraged to do things on her own and be responsible. She’s quite the little role model. Plus the actors are great, and the location is beautiful. If you’re at the video rental store looking for a film the whole family can enjoy, this is the one to pick. Trust me, you could do far worse.

This DVD preserves the original theatrical quality perfectly with the 2.40:1 aspect ratio. Nothing is missed in this transfer. There are plenty of sweeping island shots to take advantage of this. The sound is Dolby Digital surround, and you have the option of Spanish subtitles.

Nim’s Friends – A short about training the animals and all of the time that Breslin spent with them before production began. 6:17

Abigail’s Journey – Focusing on Breslin’s point of view, she’s very charming here but says most of the same things she said in the previous feature. 6:00

Working on Water – A feature that shows all of the work they did to get the water scenes right: the scenes with Jack on his raft and the underwater scenes with Nim. I always like seeing how they do stuff underwater. Those huge tanks are fun to see. 6:06

Three Deleted Scenes – This is it! Remember when I said that the editing had a lot to do with the downfall of the pacing? Well, here’s what should have been included in the film. The first of the three deleted scene is the longest at almost 9 minutes long, but it shows several scenes that were cut from various points throughout the film. Nim was originally supposed to have imaginary friends in addition to her animal friends. These imaginary friends were Alice, Huck Finn, and Long John Silver from the books. In my opinion, had they left these scenes in the film, it would have been so much better. There’s a scene that’s in the film when a boy from the cruise ship comes up to her, she touches him, and says that she has problems being able to tell what is real and what isn’t. Had these imaginary friends been in the film, that line would have been much more heartwarming. Instead, it’s awkward. And there was supposed to be a cool swordfight scene with Long John Silver that you may have seen in the trailers that was cut. I’d love to see the film as it was intended.

Two PSA’s – One for the National Wildlife Federation, and one called NOAA Sanctuary Sam “Be Wildlife Wise”.

Adventure Commentary with Jodie Foster and Abigail Breslin – I always like these kinds of commentaries. It’s nice to hear something different than the director’s point of view.

Commentary with director/writers Mark Levin and Jennifer Plackett

Trailers – Ice Age 3, Horton Hears a Who, Angel Wars: Guardian Force, Garfield’s Fun Fest, Dr. Dolittle: A Tinsel Town Tale (when are they going to let this die already?), Elephant Tales, Picture This

Nim’s Island is a great family film that feels like it should have been aired on Sunday nights with the Wonderful World of Disney. Even with the lost footage that could have made the film even better, it’s still a solid film. I’d love to see more films like this from Jodie Foster and Gerard Butler.

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20th Century Fox presents Nim’s Island. Directed by Jennifer Flackett & Mark Levin. Starring Abigail Breslin, Jodie Foster, Gerard Butler. Written by Jennifer Flackett & Mark Levin. Running time: 96 minutes. Rated PG. Released on DVD: August 5, 2008. Available at Amazon.com.

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