Nim's Island review

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Nim (Little Miss Sunshine herself, Abigail Breslin) lives on an unmapped South Pacific isle with a friendly menagerie: a sea lion, a pelican and a bearded dragon. She even has her own Man Friday – her dad (Gerard Butler), who’s a marine biologist and a widower. What with the immaculate white sandy beaches, the excellent fishing and the eco-friendly bamboo cabana, Nim is enjoying the good life. Even so, a gal needs a little escapism now and then – and Nim likes nothing better than to curl up with Alex Rover (also Butler) the adventurer hero in a series of popular paperbacks.

It’s to Rover she turns when her dad doesn’t return from what was supposed to be a two-day sailing expedition. Alone and afraid, she emails an SOS (on her solar-powered iMac) – not realising that the real Alex is an agoraphobic author (Jodie Foster) who hasn’t left her house in 11 months. Egged on by her intrepid alter ego, who keeps popping up in unexpected places, Alex sets off on the journey of a lifetime…

This moderately charming adaptation of a novel by Wendy Orr plays like a pre-teen spin on Romancing The Stone. Co-writers/directors Mark Levin and Jennifer Flackett shoot for a storybook sense of wonder, and mostly they’re on target. It’s the kind of yarn Nim herself might have dreamed up, with fantasy blurring into reality, some old-fashioned animated sequences, and even a Disney-style battle with pirates (actually an Aussie cruise ship).

Sadly, Foster’s fussy rendition of a world-class neurotic learning to be the hero of her own life won’t convince everyone that comedy is her forte, but it’s nicely counterbalanced by Butler’s relaxed riff on a two-dimensional Indiana Jones hero. The invention flags before the end, so unless you have young ‘uns in tow there’s no terrifically compelling reason to catch it on celluloid, but it makes a nice change to see a kids’ adventure film with a girl overcoming the odds – and there’s always that gorgeous scenery to goggle at.

Home Alone with coconuts. An above-average kid-flick that's let down by Jodie Foster straining to prove her comedy chops but buoyed by some peppy visual touches and another irresistible turn from little miss Breslin.

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