Aside from the central email plot device, this has the feel of a good old-fashioned family adventure. It's like the kind of film Jodie Foster made a couple of when she was a kid actor herself in the '70s (Candleshoe, anyone?). Kids will love Nim and Jack's tricked-out tree house, which is much more elaborate than the simple hut described in the book the movie is based on -- ahh, movie magic. They'll also love Nim's island friends -- Selkie the sea lion, Fred the marine iguana, Chica the sea turtle, etc. -- and Nim herself. Breslin is engaging and sympathetic as she copes with storms, invading tourists (the movie's closest thing to "bad guys"), and facing her fears about her missing father. Dirty, wild-haired, science-savvy, book loving; Nim is the anti-starlet, and just the kind of role model tweens could use more of.
The adult actors are also appealing. Foster is funny, relatable, and down to earth -- it's nice to see her doing something so lighthearted after a string of intense dramas/thrillers, and she's really one of the highlights of the movie. Butler is a bit corny as Jack, but in his other role -- he also stands in as the Indiana Jones-like hero of Alex's books, who comes to life when she needs someone to talk to -- he's roguishly charming. Along with the movie's strongly positive messages about believing in yourself and helping others, the three stars make it easy to overlook the movie's weaker areas (the script is a little bit cheesy in spots, and some of the plot twists require a pretty big suspension of disbelief even for a kids' adventure movie). Kids who go exploring with Nim will have a great time.