There are enough inspirational messages for two movies in this HOME ALONE/Treasure Island/Tempest hybrid, but some nice scenery, an unexpectedly funny performance by Jodie Foster and an unflaggingly spunky Abigail Breslin make for above average family entertainment.
Ever since her oceanographer mother disappeared at sea -- presumably into the belly of one of the great blue whales she was studying -- 11-year-old Nim Rusoe (Breslin) has been raised by her marine biologist father Jack (Gerard Butler) on a tiny volcanic island somewhere in the South Pacific. No one else in the world seems to know about this speck of paradise and Nim and Jack, who live in splendid isolation like a modern-day Prospero and Miranda, like it that way. Home schooled by her father and with no one but animal friends for company -- her closet companion is a sea lion named Silky -- smart, imaginative Nim understands the importance of books. Her favorites are the hugely popular series of pulpy exploits written by an obviously fictional adventurer named Alex Rover which young Nim doesn't realize is just a nom de plume. Far from a scruffy, fearless Indiana Jones-style hero with a Scottish burr, "Alex Rover" is really Alexandra Rover (Foster), an obsessive-compulsive bundle of phobias -- germa- and agoraphobia being chief among them -- who's addicted to Purell and Progresso soup and hasn't left her San Francisco home in four months. Alex lives entirely in her head -- her closest companion is her own creation, the fictional Alex (Butler) who appears a la Tyler Durden to offer comfort and critique. Having just published "My Arabian Adventure," Alexandra is now being pressured by her editor to finish the next book in the series, but after having led her hero to the edge of a fiery volcano where he's about to be sacrificed, she's stuck. How could anyone conceivably escape such a fate? Turning to the Internet, Alexandra finds an article by Jack Rusoe about living in the shadow of a volcano and sends him an inquiring email. But it's Nim who's receives the message -- Jack is off on a two day expedition to an nearby atoll -- and mistaking Alexandra Rover for her fictional idol, an excited Nim writes back. Jack, meanwhile, is in bigger trouble than Nim knows: His boat was badly damaged during a sudden storm, and he's stranded at sea. It only takes a few emails back and forth for Alexandra to realize that Nim isn't Jack's research assistant but a child stranded alone on an isolated island who needs help. Egged on by the figment of Alex Rover, Alexandra screws up her courage for the trip a lifetime. First, however, she must the find the nerve to leave her house.
There's a lot of plot to muddle through -- in addition to Alexandra's catastrophe-filled trip into the great unknown and Jack's survival adventure, there's Nim's attempt to scare off a gaggle of passengers from a cruise-ship company that plans on making her secret island a regular stop on their voyage -- but with so much going on, there's no time for boredom. Foster isn't the first actress anyone thinks of when they think "comedy," but she's a surprisingly good comedian. The worst thing that can be said about writers-directors Mark Levin and Jennifer Flackett adaptation of Wendy Orr's young adult novel is that oft-repeated messages like "You must be the hero of your own life story" are served up with a very heavy hand, but this is, after all, a kids' flick. And you can't argue too much with a movie featuring a smart and feisty young girl for a hero and actually encourages kids to crack open a book.
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- Released: 2008
- Rating: PG
- Review: There are enough inspirational messages for two movies in this HOME ALONE/Treasure Island/Tempest hybrid, but some nice scenery, an unexpectedly funny performance by Jodie Foster and an unflaggingly spunky Abigail Breslin make for above average family ente… (more)