Young actress rises to challenge in adventure flick
April 4, 2008 8:00 AM
Abigail Breslin sends an empowering message in "Nim's Island."
By Barbara Vancheri Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
If Harrison Ford ever decides to retire his whip, fedora and battered leather jacket, Gerard Butler would make a rip-roaring replacement as Indiana Jones.
In the family film "Nim's Island," Butler appears in some fantasy scenes as a fearless adventurer and darn if he doesn't look like Indy's Scottish cousin. The balance of the time he's playing Jack, a widowed marine biologist and writer who lives with his daughter, Nim (Abigail Breslin), on a remote island in the South Pacific.
They're the only human inhabitants, although 11-year-old Nim has plenty of friends in Selkie the sea lion, a bearded dragon lizard called Fred, a pelican named Galileo and other creatures great and small.
Like modern members of "Swiss Family Robinson," Jack and Nim live in a sprawling tree- house style home, grow some of their own food, periodically get shipments of other goods by boat and are perfectly content on their patch of paradise. One of the most eagerly anticipated imports is the next Alex Rover novel, which Nim hungrily devours.
When Alex sends an e-mail to Jack, inquiring about the island's volcano he once chronicled for a magazine, she opens up a correspondence that will turn her life topsy-turvy. Alex is actually a woman (Jodie Foster) who is a borderline agoraphobic who hasn't left her San Francisco apartment in 16 weeks.
When Alex realizes that Jack is missing at sea and Nim is his young daughter who's alone and injured, she has to figure out what she can do. That is, if she can make it past her front door.
"Nim's Island" tracks Alex's efforts to conquer her fears of, well, everything, Nim's valiant attempt to defend her island home from comic interlopers and Jack's battle to survive at sea.
Based on a book by Wendy Orr and directed by the husband-and-wife team of Mark Levin and Jennifer Flackett, "Nim's Island" is the rare adventure film that stars a girl. And she's a girl who may occasionally cry but who is resourceful and fearless and even a bit foolhardy.
Breslin, Oscar-nominated for "Little Miss Sunshine," isn't the natural tomboy the role calls for, and Foster's strength is strength, not trepidation and anxiety.
The movie doesn't allow enough mixing and matching among its trio of stars but Breslin rises to the challenge of playing scenes alone or opposite her mammal or animal pals. Butler, meanwhile, has yet to meet a genre he could not master, as demonstrated by "Phantom of the Opera," "300" and "P.S. I Love You."
"Nim's Island," filmed in Australia, is rated PG for mild action adventure and it is mild and predictable rather than exhilarating and daring. But it's solid, old-fashioned entertainment with an empowering message about being the hero of your own landlocked or seaworthy story.