So many bad movies, so little time. While studios try to make the best of it, there is no denying it when a movie is dumped into a spring release. Even still, Nim’s Island goes so spectacularly wrong it’s difficult to imagine anyone thinking it would ever be a good movie. When the best thing you can say about it is that Gerard Butler looks great in a wet t-shirt, you know you’re in trouble.
Nim’s Island starts off well and good, mostly, when we meet Nim, a plucky 11-year-old played by the hard-working Abigail Breslin. Nim lives on a private island with her father Jack (Butler). We’ll stop right there to contemplate the weirdness of a grown man living all alone for years with his small daughter, but we’ll move right past that. At least they do show a lot of pictures of Nim’s departed mother. Even still, it’s a hard scenario to buy, or else it would be if it weren’t for the love interest on the scene.
When Jack takes to the sea to hunt down some scientific research, he is waylaid by a sudden monsoon and nearly drowns. In a panic, Nim contacts Alex Rover for help. She thinks she’s contacting an adventure hero from the many books she’s been reading. But Alex Rover, it turns out, is actually written by a female. Not just any female, mind you, but an agoraphobic, obsessive-compulsive shut-in played by Jodie Foster.
Because she hears Nim is all alone, Alex Rover decides to confront her fears and do what it takes (and it takes a lot) to get to Nim and help her. The movie spends all of its time, budget, and resources on this difficult expedition, intercut with scenes of the father fighting for his survival with the help of a plucky pelican named Galileo.
Meanwhile, Nim must defend her island from tourists who were to depart from a cruise ship for some fun in the sun. Nim calls upon her island friends, lizards, and a sea lion to make the environment too hostile to the interlopers. Nim herself scaled a mountain to make it appear as though the island’s volcano is erupting.
These are but some of the oddities that make Nim’s Island an “everything but the kitchen sink” type of quirky adventure comedy that can either work or fail miserably. Although my nine-year-old companion was entertained, there is no question that Nim’s Island is one of the worst films of the year.
Had the film spent less time getting Alex Rover to the island and more time with Nim on her island getting to know Rover, or hooking up her lonely father with the agitated writer, it might have been hokey but at least satisfying. Point of fact, Butler is so exciting to watch on screen he deserves nothing less than the majority of screen time.
Jodie Foster is too good an actress to be playing this silly role, which could have been played by anyone. Foster seems out of place, even though she has some of the film’s best jokes. We’ve also seen this story before in Romancing the Stone, with Kathleen Turner as the shut-in genre writer who sets off on a wild adventure.
In the end, the best thing about Nim’s Island (other than Butler’s physique) turns out to be Abigail Breslin, who shows herself to be a confident actress full of range, proving herself to be anything but a one-trick pony.