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A Hero Lies within on Nim’s Island

  • Lisa Rice Contributing Writer
  • 2008 4 Apr
A Hero Lies within on <i>Nim’s Island</i>

DVD Release Date:  August 5, 2008
Theatrical Release Date:  April 4, 2008
Rating:  PG (for mild adventure action and brief language)
Genre:  Action/Adventure
Run Time:  96 min.
Director:  Jennifer Flackett and Mark Levin
Actors:  Abigail Breslin, Jodie Foster, Gerard Butler, Michael Carman, Mark Brady, and Anthony Simcoe.

Likely targeting kids five through twelve, the latest Walden Media film is a family-friendly, take-me-away adventure with a good message about finding heroism from within. 

Based on the book by Wendy Orr and Kerry Millard, Nim’s Island provides a unique high seas adventure that will strike a chord with any kid who has dreamed about having her own jungle paradise and having to defend it from dangerous intruders.

Nim Rusoe (Abigail Breslin) lives with her father Jack (Gerard Butler), a biologist, on a gorgeous island in the South Pacific.  Her mom died years ago, when swallowed by a whale while doing marine biology work.  Nim is homeschooled, of course, and knows an encyclopedia’s worth of info on birds, whales, walruses, and many other creatures.  Several of them are her pets and best friends.

Each night Nim cooks delicious food for her father, and she and he have wonderful conversations together. (There’s no TV … can you imagine?)  Then Nim flits off to bed to read another book.  Her favorite book series is Alex Rover, where hero Alex saves the day, even when he’s in the tightest of spots (like being dangled over a fiery volcano).

Her dad’s quest is to find an unusual strain of protozoa plankton, which he promises to name “Protozoa Nim.”  One night he sets out in the boat to find it, but Nim begs to be left alone on the island to read.  Her father finally agrees, especially since it’ll only be for two nights.

Things do not go as planned, however, and a violent storm takes Dad off course, maybe even killing him.  When Nim doesn’t hear from her father, she decides to take matters into her own hands and persuade her hero, Alex Rover, to save the day. 

Little does Nim know, however, that Alex Rover is actually Alexandra (Jodie Foster), the author of the books and a fearful recluse living in California.  Alexandra also has an imaginary sidekick, the “Alex” from her novels (also played by Butler).  Alex is constantly encouraging Alexandra to be bold and brave, to take an adventure.  But Alexandra is petrified and tries to convince Alex to be reasonable about the dangers.  Finally, however, she becomes convinced of Nim’s predicament and decides to take an unprecedented adventure—by plane, smaller plane, boat, smaller boat, and helicopter to a certain place known only by degrees latitude and longitude.

Meanwhile, while hiding in a tree and overhearing some men from a cruise ship talking, Nim has gotten wind that some bad guys are coming to take over her island. Not knowing if her father is dead or alive, or if Alex is really coming, she sets about creating ingenious traps and diversions. What ensues is a terrific adventure involving crazy travel mishaps, scary storms, volcano disasters, an invasion, and some serious rescue from a jungle full of inventive animals.

Nim’s Island is filmed beautifully, tempting audiences to run away from all the stress of suburbia and build their own Swiss Family Robinson type of jungle house.  The director makes great use of a number of locations on land and sea in Australia.

The acting is commendable, especially from Abigail Breslin (No Reservations, Little Miss Sunshine), who is said to come from a family of faith.  Her brother, Spencer Breslin (The Santa Clause 3, The Shaggy Dog) is also a shooting star, and between them, the siblings have shot several dozen movies.  In Nim’s Island, she plays both the loving, playful daughter and the fierce, determined adventurer well.

Gerard Butler makes for a fine biologist and action hero, having to alternate between American and Scottish accents.  Jodie Foster plays a good, terrified recluse who must come out of her shell to save the day.  And whoever trained the jungle and sea animals needs an Oscar!

Though parts of the story seem familiar (wasn’t the writer in Romancing the Stone called upon to become an adventuress, too?), there are many sweet and unique aspects to the story that will render it an appealing choice for spring moviegoers.


  • Drugs/Alcohol:  Tourists on beach enjoy their drinks at a party.
  • Language/Profanity:  Instances of “Oh my God!” and “My God.”
  • Sex/Nudity:  None.
  • Violence:  Mostly comedic or Indiana Jones-type action.  For example, at one point reptiles are flung onto screaming tourists.  Other scary images might include the storms at sea, a boat being torn apart, a frightening airplane and helicopter ride, an exploding volcano, etc.
  • Worldview:  Generally positive, with a “Look for the hero within” message.  One incident involves a man crying out, “Mother Nature, help me!”