Movies aimed at preteen boys are a dime a dozen, particularly as we approach the summertime when superhero movies compete with science-fiction sequels and bawdy high school comedies for available multiplex screens.
Young girls, unfortunately, aren't so lucky. On the rare occasion that Hollywood does decide to throw teen girls a bone, they're spoon-fed skeletal garbage like the dreadful Nancy Drew or a doomed vehicle for Hilary Duff
. Asking Kirsten Dunst
to sharpen an edge for Mary Jane Watson in the Spider-Man movies doesn't count. Article continues below
Nim's Island tries to rectify this dire situation, and gets off to a strong start before abandoning its imaginative premise for madcap antics. Nim (Abigail Breslin
) is the intelligent, inquisitive, and independent daughter of marine biologist Jack Rusoe (Gerard Butler
, versatile in multiple roles). The two live a peaceful existence on an isolated island in the South Pacific. Jack searches for undiscovered single-cell organisms while Nim embarks on adventures with her best friends, Silky the sea lion and Galileo the pelican. Once a week, a supply ship brings food, tools, and the latest novel from best-selling author Alex Rover (Jodie Foster
Nim's self-confidence is admirable, and her message deserves to be spread: "With a little imagination, I can go anywhere," she tells doting dad. When plot contrivances allow Nim and Alex to communicate via email, Island conveys welcome impressions about finding courage in life's difficult choices. For Nim, it might mean venturing to the mouth of a dormant volcano. For Alex, an agoraphobic, it might mean trekking to the mailbox to pick up today's post (though the fact that an agoraphobic has a detached mailbox in the first place is kind of silly).
Somewhere along the way, however, co-directors Mark Levin
and Jennifer Flackett
lose their own courage and allow Island to devolve into a slapdash version of Home Alone on holiday. Breslin and her animal mates use farting sea lions and flying lizards to defend the island from boorish Australian tourists. The delusional Alex braves every method of transportation to reach Nim's island so she can help, and Jack receives unlikely assistance to return home from an unsuccessful sea trip. What begins as a worthy voyage sadly drifts way off course, leaving teenage females stranded once again.