Nim’s Island Blu-ray Review

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Nim’s Island
20th Century Fox Home Entertainment
Directed by: Jennifer Flackett & Mark Levin
Reviewed by: Lance Rhinehart

Nim’s Island promises an all-family, comedic action/adventure drama.  And while it does deliver something in all its categories, it also leaves some of its more anticipated story follow-through unsatisfied.  Not to begin this review on a sour note, but when the audience is intended to be the entire family, the kids shouldn’t be the only members who truly enjoy the film because they simply don’t notice that the story’s plot contrivances are too artificial to even attempt a healthy suspension of disbelief.  However, from a more positive perspective, the casting works well in terms of interpersonal chemistry and likable characters who have the power to get an audience cheering for their success as they encounter personal and plot oriented obstacles throughout the film.

The story is set mostly on an uncharted island in the Pacific where a scientist by the name of Jack Rusoe (Gerard Butler) lives in relative isolation with his imaginative and savvy pre-teen daughter affectionately named Nim (Abigail Breslin).  Nim and her father are a loving duo that find peace on their island, along with the wildlife that engenders a kind of makeshift family in a tropical paradise. Clever exposition in the opening of the story explains why Nim’s mother is no longer in the picture. So the story really begins with some scenes depicting contented daily routines for Nim and Jack Rusoe.  Idyllic in and of itself, the Rusoe’s rather unique situation offers an attractive premise for kids and adults who may be distantly (or not so distantly) haunted by the notion that life can actually be an adventure where the everyday holds promise and magic.  I have to admit that even I took a moment or two to evaluate the possibility and romantic excitement of my own family picking up and moving to just such a place…of course that idea evaporated swiftly and in direct proportion to the erratic opening and closing of the aesthetic distance between the film and me as a viewer.  In other words, it took a bit of industry on my part to remain believably engaged in the story as though I were a silent observer…not too much, but enough to notice the work involved in the task.

Interestingly, the story arc of the film separates into three subplots that serve to represent the film’s morality theme, “be the hero of your own story.”  All three subplots are joined together by the commonality of a fictional character (within the frame of the narrative) named Alex Rover, also played by Butler.  Alex Rover, adventure hero extraordinaire, lives in the imagination of Alexandra Rover (Jodie Foster) a San Francisco based agoraphobic writer who is afraid of all things beyond the confines of her front door.  Nim and Alexandra first make contact via email when the writer needs to find information on the nature of volcanoes and sends an inquiry to the famed scientist, Jack Rusoe, only to be picked up by Nim in her father’s absence. As Nim reads the name Alex Rover, she assumes that she has just been contacted by the hero of her favorite adventure stories. Coincidentally, this case of mediocre dramatic irony and mistaken identity occurs just after Nim’s father has gone missing.  On one hand Jack and his daughter must face the enormous obstacle of reuniting after a tropical storm has swept them apart.  Nim must fend for herself on their island home, and her dad must overcome near insurmountable odds in order to get back to his daughter. While on the other hand, the neurotic Alexandra Rover makes comedic yet persistent and desperate attempts to reach and to save the abandoned little girl.  All the while, the writer’s alter ego guides and ridicules her as she becomes the very hero that she so effectively created in her novels.

The premise of the film has potential to be quite climactic in its resolution and rejoining of the three subplots. However, in an attempt to create a darkest-before-the-dawn type of scenario, the actual resolution is a bit too abrupt and contrived for comfort.  It had somewhat of an anticlimactic sensation, but that is not to say that the film should be axed because of a fractional ending error.  One reason that I suggest as a possible dilution of the plot was the scenes where Nim defends her island against invading cruise line tourists. The attempt offered some comic relief for Nim’s desperate and heartbreaking predicament, but the sequence felt very manufactured and lacked the subtlety needed to tie it into the story with believable continuity.  Instead of having Nim defend her island in a cliché siege-like fashion that only the most undiscerning viewer might find acceptable, she could have spent her skills simply surviving the storm and protecting and repairing their home.  At best the tourist invasion of the island was a cute idea and a lackluster execution that stunk of gratuitous comic relief.

One of the more intriguing aspects of the film was the use of the island’s animal residents.  Nim not only enjoyed unusual pets, but could actually interact with them as genuine friends. For example, her relationship with the animals became essential to her survival as well as that of her dad’s. The question it brought to light while watching the film was the factuality of each species’ intellect. Could Fred the lizard really understand a human like it did with Nim? Could Galileo the pelican think and reason to such a capacity? Regardless of the answers to the questions, the idea is captivating and made for a great dramatic mechanism in the film. The blu-ray special features assist viewers with their exploration of those questions a they interact and learn about the making of the film itself along with some particulars about life in the island tropics.  I found the viewer interaction a bit cumbersome, but with a little tinkering, all went relatively well.

As a fan of the Blu-ray format, I have to say that this film did not stun me with eye-popping visual quality or ear-entrancing audibles, but it certainly holds its own as an overall worthy family time film. It includes bonuses like theme oriented games and an island exploration with Abigail Breslin that really helps explain the magic of the island. Breslin herself is captivating and magical; it’s no wonder that she was cast as the character that could charm wild out of the beasts.  I would in fact recommend it, because in spite of its minor short comings, it still had me a bit teary eyed and ever hopeful for Nim, Jack, and Alexandra as they realized their heroic selves and saw that paradise still belongs to the jurisdiction of human companionship and not as much to romantic settings…even though, it helps.

 

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