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What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Nim's Island is kid-friendly adventure movie that has some intense moments of peril (particularly during two scary storms) but is ultimately a positive story with a great role model for tween girls (and boys!). The book-and-science-loving 11-year-old heroine is left alone on a tropical island by her father (her mother died when she was a baby, which is explained in the opening sequence) and has to fend for herself when he's delayed in getting back to her. She gets scared and upset and even hurts herself, all of which may bother some young and/or sensitive kids, but she's also resourceful and not afraid to ask for help.
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What's the story?
In NIM'S ISLAND, Nim (Abigail Breslin) and her scientist dad, Jack (Gerard Butler), have lived on their own private tropical island since Nim's mom died when she was a baby. Thanks to solar panels and a satellite dish, their Swiss Family Robinson-like treehouse is equipped with a phone, email, and electricity -- all of which come in handy when Jack heads out to sea to look for a new species of plankton and leaves Nim by herself. He's only planning to be gone for a couple of days, but a nasty storm leaves him stranded -- and Nim increasingly worried. She turns to her favorite author/hero, adventure writer Alex Rover, for cyber help, little suspecting that Alex is actually a neurotic, borderline agoraphobic woman (Jodie Foster). Both Alex and Nim are in for several surprises before their adventure ends.
Is it any good?
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.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about what they would do in Nim's situation. Do you think it was right for her father to leave her alone on the island?
What makes Nim different from many other kid characters in movies and TV shows? Do you think she's a good role model? What about Alex Rover? What do Alex and Nim learn during the movie? How do they demonstrate courage? Why is this an important character strength?
Is this kind of movie is as entertaining as one with lots of special effects and/or animation? Kids: Which kind of adventure do you like better, and why?
Families who've read the book can compare and contrast the two. Which do you like better, and why?
- In theaters: April 4, 2008
- On DVD or streaming: August 4, 2008
- Cast: Abigail Breslin, Gerard Butler, Jodie Foster
- Directors: Jennifer Flackett, Mark Levin
- Studio: Twentieth Century Fox
- Genre: Family and Kids
- Topics: Adventures, Book Characters, Great Girl Role Models, Ocean Creatures, Wild Animals
- Character Strengths: Courage
- Run time: 95 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG
- MPAA explanation: mild adventure action and brief language.
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