A kiddie adventure film set in motion by a horrifying act of neglect, Nim's Island casts Gerard Butler and Little Miss Sunshine star Abigail Breslin as a father/daughter team who enjoy an idyllic existence on an otherwise uninhabited South Pacific island. Butler conducts research on microplankton; Breslin befriends local animals and reads voraciously, especially the pulpy tales starring, and apparently written by, an Indiana Jones-like adventurer named Alex Ryder (also played by Butler in fantasy sequences).
All seems to be going well until Butler decides to take a two-day research jaunt at sea, only to hit a storm that leaves him stranded, while Breslin wonders whether her dad is ever coming back. By sheer coincidence, she receives an e-mail from Ryder, asking a question about her island's inactive volcano. Not realizing that Alex Ryder is actually Alexandra Ryder (Jodie Foster), an agoraphobic San Francisco author, Breslin asks her for help, forcing Foster to leave the cocoon of her home for the first time in months, and dare a trip to the island.
Essentially two films in one, Nim's Island divides its time between Foster's attempts to navigate the terrors of international travel and Breslin's gimmicky schemes to keep an intrusive cruise ship filled with overweight Australians off her turf. (Think Home Alone: Island Adventure.) Neither works all that well apart, and when they come together, it's something of an anticlimax.
Directors Jennifer Flackett and Mark Levin deliver some eye-catching fantasy sequences in the early scenes, but the film grows more mundane and the tone more uneven as it goes on. (It's a slapstick comedy about phobias! No, wait, it's a whimsical storybook fantasy!) Kids might like the animals and probably won't be bothered by the forced enthusiasm of Breslin's performance—or some of the most shameless product placement since You've Got Mail—but there are much more interesting worlds out there for them to visit.