Borderline. Feels Like I'm Going To Lose My Mind.
Nim's Island / Agent Bedhead
Film Reviews | April 4, 2008 | Comments ()
As a parent, I find it difficult to really dislike a film that is geared towards young girls and doesn’t feature its female protagonists wearing revealing clothing while applying impossibly shiny lip gloss and chatting on their cell phones. So, although Nim’s Island is a tediously paced affair involving a trio of main characters who spend most of their onscreen time trying to find each other, this children’s film does have its merits. As an adaptation of Wendy Orr’s novel, Nim’s Island reels in more pluses than minuses for its portrayal of an intrepid young heroine, Nim (Abigail Breslin), who teaches a thing or two to the hero of her own favorite series of adventure novels. Surprisingly, Breslin has yet to descend into the state of impossible cuteness that seems to arrive when childhood stars approach the state of overexposure. Here, Breslin gives an understated performance and copes well with a pretty lame script that consists of voiceovers, emails, and the unintelligible dialogue of Gerard Butler. Of course, the last time we saw Butler was as an Irishman with an unmistakeably Scottish burr in P.S. I Love You, in which he largely dwelled within the imagination of his manlier-than-thou widow. This time around, things haven’t changed much, despite a genre switch, for in Nim’s Island the actor’s Scottish accent remains firmly in guttero (made up word!) as he takes on dual roles, one of which is a fictional character who inhabits a disturbingly large portion of his creator’s imagination.
Butler first appears as the reclusive Jack Russo, who is a well-renowned scientist and father to Nim, with whom he lives on an uncharted island in the South Pacific. As Jack, Butler hides behind a pair of glasses and attempts not to look too attractive while evoking an unconvincingly awful American accent that remains about as steady as the female heartbeats in the audience. According to the film’s prologue, Nim’s mother, an oceanographer, died while staring stupidly into the mouth of a blue whale, who promptly swallowed her whole. The End. So, as long as Nim can remember, she and her father have lived alone on this tiny island, and, somehow, they receive monthly supplies to keep their massive treehouse in an unbelievably modern state. Hell, this island boasts a more reliable power supply and unwavering broadband internet service than you enjoy. However, there are drawbacks to this isolation, such as the lack of emergency services when Jack sails off to sea for a few days of hunting but goes missing. When a nasty storm blows through the island’s vicinity, the undauntingly resourceful Nim fixes her home’s solar panels and immediately begins to plan for her father’s rescue. Somehow, this unflinchingly courageous 11-year old daughter demonstrates survival skills that would, once and for all, expose Bear Gryllis for his mama’s boy self. Impressionable children of the film’s audience could certainly use more role models like Nim.
The second side of the Butlerian coin of Nim’s Island features the far tastier Alex Rover, an Indiana Jones-styled fictional character who fully retains Butler’s Scottish accent while he manages to fight groups of his enemies while blindfolded — a fantastical feat not completely unlike his role in 300. Alex Rover is the creation of writer Alexandra Rover (Jodie Foster), and their shared names are confusingly interchanged to further the plot. Alexandra is novelist who is so frightened of the outside world that she makes Sigourney Weaver’s Copycat character look like she’s been downing a steady diet of Valium and Rohyphnol smoothies. As an agorophobic, obsessive-compulsive, and the sort of neurotic that you want to shove down a flight a stairs, Alexandra hasn’t left her city apartment for months. While researching material for her latest Alex Rover adventure, Alexander emails Jack and gets a reply back from Nim, who believes that she is emailing the actual hero of her favorite novels. Eventually, Alexandra figures out that young girl is all alone, so, despite the fact that she cannot even walk to her curbside mailbox, she opts to travel to the other side of the world. Although this storyline is just as stupid as it sounds, the lesson is all about becoming the hero of your own story. So, through a series of awkwardly acted pratfalls, the claustrophobically annoying writer travels by land, air, and sea for most of the film. Fortunately, the imaginary Alex Rover does tag along to keeps things light, amusing, and aesthetically pleasing. And, although I might not understand every syllable that comes out of his mouth, Gerard Butler’s Scottish accent at least sounds sexy. So, while I do excessively comment on the fact that, while Butler’s voice is not nearly as versatile as his acting ability, I really would hate to not hear it during a film that already feels much longer than its 94 minutes.
Nim’s Island is a mildly tolerable film that gets weighed down by an illogical plot with much rolling of eyes to follow. Typhoons appear out of nowhere, and a ridiculous subplot finds Nim fending off a cruise ship full of those dreadful Australian ruffians. This deviation mostly serves to entertain the kiddies with anthropomorphized lizards and sea horses, and the sequence also adds a little Home Alone flavor to the Swiss Family Robinson vibe that’s predominant throughout the film. Obviously, children will love this film much more than the adult audience. In addition, a reason exists why Jodie Foster is better known for her roles in suspense films than any of her comedic attempts. If you don’t mind all of that as well as the most shameless product placements in recent cinematic history, it may even be worth it to see the fedora-wearing, leather-clad Gerard Butler adopting a dashingly seductive smirk and uttering the words “borderline agorophobic.” Rowrr.
Agent Bedhead (a.k.a. “Kimberly”) lives in Tulsa, Oklahoma. She and her little black heart can be found at agentbedhead.com.
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