Nim’s Island wants desperately to be Swiss Family Robinson, but it’s more like Swiss Miss: a sickly sweet, powdery substance which when mixed with water may shut your kids up for a few minutes by imitating something good. Except it’s not good, it’s terrible and I spent most of the movie curled up in my seat, approximating a semi-permanent cringe.
Abigail Breslin stars as Nim, a little girl who lives on an uncharted jungle island with her scientist father, Jack (Gerard Butler). The adventure starts with an act of bad parenting, when Butler’s character leaves his eleven-year-old daughter all alone on their isolated volcanic rock in order to spare us his awful American accent. Left to her own devices, we’re treated to Breslin’s blank, dead-eyed stare as she dances with boorish, Disneyfied jungle animals and reads out loud the emails she’s sending to her favorite adventure author, Alex Rover (Jodie Foster).
There’s really no worse way to spend your movie than watching characters email each other, yet that ends up being where Nim’s Island wastes most of its running time. Breslin reads her email out loud and hits send. Jodie Foster, alone in her apartment, receives the email, reads it out loud, types her own email while reading it out loud to absolutely no one, and then sends her response. Exciting stuff. Eventually Nim realizes her father doesn’t seem to be coming back and, assuming that Alex is just like the Indiana Jones styled adventure character in her novels, sends her an email asking for help.
But Alex is not like the adventure character in her novels, though she does frequently hallucinate him, allowing Gerard Butler to drop his awful American accent and play a rugged, fantasy adventurer the way god intended it. Foster meanwhile plays Alex as if she’s a female Woody Allen, and a total shut in afraid to leave the house to get her mail let alone hop a plane to some mysterious island to help an endangered little girl. Eventually though she faces her fears, starts the journey to Nim’s place, and we’re spared the further reading of poorly worded email correspondence.
The movie’s just a clumsy mess, the performances are awful, and there’s literally nothing to recommend it. Maybe very small children will enjoy it, there’s a dancing seal and a squeaking lizard after all, and kids love that crap no matter what sort of movie it’s in. But kids love anything and if we start gauging these things by their standards then there’s never been a bad children’s movie. Well here’s one, it’s called Nim’s Island and they don’t really get much worse than this.