April 6, 2008 -- Watching this movie is sort of like stepping into a time machine to 40 years ago when Disney used to make movies like this all the time, movies like “Swiss Family Robinson,” “That Darn Cat,” and “The Incredible Journey.” This is not a Disney movie (but one of the film's production companies Walden Media, used to be partnerned with Disney), but it follows the old Disney formula: cute, well-trained animals and kids operating in some alternate dimension where there are no swear words, no real dangers and hardly any human beings that aren't pure Caucasian. This film does have some Polynesian people in it briefly, though, so it isn't totally in the old Disney formula.
The plot of this film is sort of like “Home Alone” combined with “Romancing the Stone.” A kid, Nim Rusoe (Abigail Breslin of “Little Miss Sunshine”) is left alone on a tropical island when her father, Jack Rusoe (Gerard Butler of “300” who also plays Alex Rover in the film) sails off to an atoll to collect plankton samples and gets caught in a storm. Nim takes it upon herself to repel invaders to the island whom she imagines to be pirates. They are, in fact, tourists on a tour ship with a buccaneer theme. She bombards the tourists with lizards and her pet sea lion gases them with flatulence, but it takes a volcanic eruption to get the tourists moving.
Nim's favorite books feature the adventures of Alex Rover, a kind of Indiana Jones character whose specialty is escapes from desperate situations. As with the pirates, Nim confuses fiction with fact, and contacts the author of the Alex Rover books, Alexandra Rover (played by Jodie Foster of “The Brave One”) by email (Nim has a computer and satellite uplink powered by solar cells). She asks for Alex Rover's help, not knowing that Alexandra rover is an author so afraid of the world she hasn't stepped out of her apartment in over a year. Alexandra is moved to action and makes the arduous journey to the remote island in the South China Sea (the filming location was near Australia).
Just when the story gets interesting, it ends. I was expecting Alexandra and Nim to come up with some scheme to rescue Nim's father. I was expecting to see more interplay between the three characters. Instead, the three main characters remain separate during almost the entire movie (except that Alexandra has quite a few conversations with her imaginary hero, Alex Rover). So what remains? We have a cute kid, several cute, well-trained animals (a sea lion, pelican and a lizard) and a few funny pratfalls. This is a very lightweight movie. It is mainly a movie for kids, but is tolerable for adults. As a strictly kid's movie it rates a C+.
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