Review in a Hurry: This adaptation of a fantastical children's novel is really all about the adults—namely, Jodie Foster, thanks to her scene-stealing turn as a scaredy-cat author. If it weren't for her, Nim's Island would be a drag. This supposed adventure movie could use a little more wind in its sails.
The Bigger Picture: Nim (Abigail Breslin) lives on an isolated South Pacific isle with her marine biologist father, Jack (Gerard Butler). During a scientific expedition, pops goes missing. While worrying sick over him (and, oddly, never alerting the authorities), Nim gets an email from her favorite author, adventurer Alex Rover.
Thrilled to cyberspeak with her hero, Nim begs Alex for help. This is no small favor—turns out Alex is short for Alexandra Rover, a "borderline" agoraphobic who can barely leave her house, let alone climb a tree or spear a fish. But with Jack in grave danger, Alex can't just sit and do nothing. She braves city cabbies, the TSA airport screening process and a harrowing boat ride with hilarious histrionics. Foster hasn't been this goofy since...well, Freaky Friday.
Offering help—in a vivid figment of imagination—is the other Alex Rover, the fictional Indiana Jones version, also played by the dashing Butler. This funny, wise alter ego helps Alex with her quite serious issues in a lively fashion that parents will appreciate.
Where the movie misses its mark is its awful pacing. It takes a good hour for the two heroines to join forces; Foster's journey halfway across the world feels like it takes place in real time, and a subplot about island invaders (you know, tourists) is unnecessary and tedious.
This latter storyline also draws out Nim's sanctimonious side; though Breslin plays her with grace, the initially whimsical character turns prissy. We'd rather spend time with the paranoid, hapless and ultimately courageous mess of a woman that Foster embodies with relish and gusto. Maybe this crazy Alex lady will have her own movie someday.
The 180—a Second Opinion: Pacing aside, each scene reflects a sweetness and innocence that stands out in this age of irony. No grotesquely made-up, precocious kids or pathetic attempts at tragic hipness here. Which, in the world of kids' movies, is pretty refreshing.