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Fri April 4, 2008
By John DeSando, WCBE's It's Movie Time
"My travel's history,
Wherein of antres vast and deserts idle,
Rough quarries, rocks, and hills whose heads touch heaven,
It was my hint to speak?such was my process?
And of the cannibals that each other eat,
The anthropophagi, and men whose heads
Do grow beneath their shoulders." Shakespeare's Othello
The Swiss Family Robinson idea of a family stranded and making a go of it has always fascinated me, not so much Gilligan's Island as The Tempest with talented father and magical daughter. Abigail Breslin isn't yet ready to play Miranda, but her role in Nim's Island requires her to perform an 11-year old's Electra-like attachment to her father and her father some dandy research and survival gymnastics worthy of a modern day Prospero.
They've not been stranded or banished from any kingdom; they've elected this remote South Pacific island for the study of sea organisms and subconsciously the assuaging of grief over mother/wife's death. As to be expected, they face numerous challenges from the outside befitting the John Donne's notion that "no man is an island."
Beyond the fantasy idea that they have a working Internet when the cable connection in my urban super condo is unreliable is my disbelief that Jodie Foster can play a comedic part, which she attempts here to decidedly mixed results as she plays agoraphobic, germaphobic adventure writer Alex Roper, who rarely leaves her San Francisco apartment. She does leave it to help Breslin's Nim in the absence of her father, and until she actually lands on the island, her bumbling efforts to join the real world are over-the-top slapstick that never looks comfortable on Foster. Partial blame must go to first-time helmer Flackett and co-director Levin, who also let Breslin take her miraculous youngster too far in the self-reliant, bubbly vein.
Perhaps the most egregious lack of restraint is in the depiction of a boat-load of tourists, some admitting to have come from Brisbane of all places, but most just overweight rubes, loud and destructive and easy targets for the xenophobic Nim. However, catapulting small animals at them is a questionably humorous bit on any island in any film.
Of course the resident lizard, seal, and pelican are loveable and smarter than humans, not a bad conceit given the ridiculous Australian tourists in the film and much of humanity outside.
John DeSando teaches film at Franklin University and co-hosts WCBE 90.5's It's Movie Time, which can be heard streaming at www.wcbe.org Fridays at 3:01 pm and 8:01 pm and on demand anytime. Contact him at JDeSando@Columbus.RR.com