Dirs: Mark Levin & Jennifer Flackett. US. 2008. 96 mins.
A smart and lively family film boasting star draws in Abigail Breslin, Jodie Foster and Gerard Butler, Nim's Island is destined to have a long life on multiple platforms over many years. Young children of both genders and, importantly, their parents will enjoy this handsomely-mounted adventure about a plucky 11-year-old girl called Nim based on the book by Australian Wendy Orr.
Nim's Island is that rare live-action children's film which is well-written and never talks down to its core audience while also offering an engaging story and real characters. It's old-fashioned in a good way, reminiscent of Disney pictures from the 1970s like Jodie Foster-starrers Freaky Friday and Candleshoe, Pete's Dragon and the Witch Mountain films.
Exhibitors will crave this G-rated film and it should be a healthy spring box office performer in the domestic market for Fox Walden, the joint marketing label between Fox and Walden Media which is now handling Walden product, and which needs a hit after the disappointments of The Seeker: The Dark Is Rising and Mr Magorium's Wonder Emporium. International independent distributors who bought the film from Summit Entertainment will also enjoy a hit with the spring and summer matinee crowds. Longterm DVD value as a children's item to be owned is assured.
The book, which will be published in many territories to coincide with the film's release, has already been a young person's hit in Australia and the US. It's not hard to see why: Nim herself is a character whom young girls in particular are drawn to, especially with her idyllic and unusual life on a deserted Pacific island with her father, widowed marine biologist Jack, and her friends Selkie the Sea Lion, Fred the Bearded Dragon and Galileo The Pelican. She is inspired by the fictional action hero Alex Rover, a great adventurer who is the subject of a series of novels which she eagerly awaits in the shipments she and her father receive.
Nim doesn't know, however, that the Rover books are written by a woman, Alexandra Rover (Foster), who is a timid, agorophobic recluse afraid to leave her San Francisco house.
But Nim and Alexandra are thrown together when Jack goes on a two-day assignment on his boat, leaving Nim behind on the island. When Jack gets stranded in a storm in the middle of the ocean and doesn't return to Nim, she reaches out to Alex Rover and Alexandra answers the call by flying across the world to help her.
Meanwhile Nim must protect the island from a cruise ship which has stumbled across it and plans to use it as a permanent stopping point for tourists.
Particularly refreshing for a family film like Nim's Island are the top-notch actors, especially Foster whose participation will act as a mark of quality to many parents familiar with her work. She is believable in a role which could have been farcical and she is matched by Breslin, who is spunky without being irritating, and Butler, full of charm here in the dual roles of Jack and the fictional Alex Rover.
The production has also recruited some top below-the-line talents in cinematographer Stuart Dyrburgh, costume designer Jeffrey Kurland and composer Patrick Doyle. By investing in top talent, the producers of family entertainment like this should see a bountiful payoff.
North American distribution
20th Century Fox/Fox Walden
Paul a Mazur
Paul a Mazur & Joseph Kwong
Mark Levin & Jennifer Flackett
Based on the novel by Wendy Orr
Director of photography