Nim's Island DVD: Review By Dodd

It seems that the directors had an objective to stay true to the source material and make a character that is admirable and independent, which is refreshing in a culture where children are getting dumber with text messaging.
  • OVERALL
    3.5
    GREAT
  • Feature
  • Picture
  • Sound
  • Extras
  • Replay Value
THE GOOD
The movie is something refreshingly funny and exciting that the family can enjoy.
THE BAD
I suppose the special features can be a little too "Breslin-centric".
THE FEATURE
Nim's Island is a movie in which a little girl resides on a deserted island and is best friends with a pack of animals, half of which are CGI. When I first read about this premise in the movie's theatrical synopsis, I assumed that this would be avoidable family fare. After all, if a kid's movie does not have the word "Pixar" before it these days, then the odds are that we will get a full serving of burps and farts accompanied by obnoxious giggles from the audience. So I could only imagine what a CGI lizard and pelican would be up to. However, to my surprise, the movie ended up being charming. I would attribute this to the movie being produced by children's literature masters Walden Media, but I suppose Hoot and How to Eat Fried Worms puts the kibosh on that company as a legitimate entertainment outlet.

The little girl befriending these animals is named Nim and is played by Abigail Breslin, whom most people will recognize as the pint-sized star of Little Miss Sunshine. The reason she lives on the island is because her scientist father (Gerard Butler) discovered the island as a desolate place to conduct and write on his research. They are completely off the map and all alone except for a charming handful of animals including a lizard, giant tortoise, a pelican, and a sea lion. When Nim is bored with her peaceful surroundings she seeks solace in a series of novels which follow an adventurer named Alex Rover. Being that Nim has had little contact with the outside world, she visualizes this character as the only man she knows, her father.

When Nim's father goes missing after a quick trip to sea in order to collect specimens, she finds herself alone and scared. By chance, she does manage to e-mail Alex Rover, who authored the books about the adventurer that also takes the name Alex Rover. Nim assumes that Alex is a rugged adventurer resembling, well, Gerard Butler. What she does not know is that Alex is really Alexandra (Jodie Foster), an agoraphobic author living in the big city. Alexandra spends a majority of the film pondering whether or not she should leave her house to come to Nim's aid, and she does most of this pondering out loud to her own imaginary manifestation of Alex Rover, who coincidentally also resembles Gerard Butler. I can only assume a principle player in the filmmaking team is still hot and bothered from seeing 300.

Nim's Island has the opportunity to take this premise and really drive it into the ground, but the film really manages to stay balanced without going into the deep end of immature oblivion. Yes there are a slew of quirky animals with human-like qualities, but the film wisely decides to background these crumbs of comic relief and instead foreground its characters. Nim is a particularly admirable little girl who handles independence in the same way that a girl raised alone on an island by a genius likely would. When a group of obnoxious tourists attempt to invade the island, Nim comes up to ways to guard her territory utilizing survivalist skills that would put Macauly Culkin from Home Alone to shame.

Meanwhile you also have the grown-ups. Gerard Butler has a lot of screentime here doubling as Nim's father and fictional hero Alex Rover. It is refreshing to see that the actor can do more than bellow macho screams. What can I say about Jodie Foster? She is terrific in everything that she does, whether it be cute and clumsy here or dark and vengeful in The Brave One. As a woman with an admiration for children and intelligence, it is clear that Foster is having a ball here as an anxious agoraphobic who gets a much-needed taste of the outside world and beyond.
THE EXTRAS
Commentary

The DVD comes complete with two tracks. The first is with Jodie Foster and Abigail Breslin in what is referred to as an "adventure commentary." This is actually a standard commentary with a catchy name for the kids. The track is very appealing to younger viewers as Brelin and Foster try to be entertaining rather than technical about the filmmaking process. The second commentary is with directors/writers/spouses Mark Levin and Jennifer Flackett. Once again this is clearly child-friendly with Levin doing most of the talking in a very slow and accessible language. Both of these tracks are full of facts, but are highly recommended for younger viewers. Any movie buff commentary consumers may feel a little talked down to by the demographic-targeting.

Featurettes

There are a total of three mini-docs here, most of which focus on Abigail Breslin. "Nim's Friends" talks about Breslin's interactions with sea lions, lizards, and pelicans on the set. Most of this footage deals with the seal lions as they are the only creatures in the film clearly not CGI the majority of the time. "Abigail's Journey" is pretty self explanatory and revolves around casting Breslin and her experience in making the movie. "Working on Water" focuses on the action-packed water scenes and how they were created by training Breslin to dive underwater.

The DVD also includes deleted scenes and a PSA.
THE VIDEO
Widescreen. The film is shot with much color and life by Levin and Flackett. The island and tropical locales look very appealing on camera.
THE AUDIO
5.1 Dolby Surround. The movie is accompanied by a well-suited adventurous score that plays nicely in stereo.
THE PACKAGE
The movie comes on a single disc in a standard case. However, the case's plastic is in a bright blue that really sticks out on the DVD shelf.
THE FINAL WORD
Nim's Island is a family movie that I think can be appreciated by anyone who loves movies. It seems that the directors had an objective to stay true to the source material and make a character that is admirable and independent, which is refreshing in a culture where children are getting dumber with text messaging. The supply of extras are also plenty and very kid friendly. There are a lot of children movies that choose to take the stupid and easy way out with gross humor. This is not one of those projects and I highly recommend getting the kids together to watch this movie.

dodd@movieweb.com

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