RETURN TO NIM'S ISLAND. Starring Bindi Irwin, John Waters, Matthew Lillard, Toby Wallace, Chris Haywood, Sebastian Gregory. Directed by Brendan Maher. Rated PG (Very mild violence). 99 minutes.
Nim's Island was a popular family film of 2009, with Jodie Foster as Nim's mother, Gerard Butler as her father and ex as Nim. It showed the family arriving on a Pacific Island and settling there, the father writing adventure novels as well as being a scientist. Nim was free to range over the island, an opportunity for her and for the audience to be close to nature, familiar, unfamiliar, pleasant as well as rugged. This is something of the formula for this sequel.
This time the attraction for audiences is having Steve Irwin's daughter, Bindi, playing Nim. She is still developing her acting skills but is a lively screen presence with her adventures, especially for girls her age and younger, who can identify with her. And she has a companion in her adventures, a young boy who has run away from his quarreling parents, who wants to share in her experiences on the island, Edmond (Toby Wallace).
This time her father is played by Matthew Lillard, in his younger days a raucous comedian but now playing a serious father-figure, with more emphasis on his concern for the environment than on writing adventure stories. He has a strong bond with his daughter. He also travels to Brisbane to plead his cause, prohibiting a company from building a resort on the island. He has the support of his father-in-wall, played by veteran Chris Haywood.
Speaking of veterans, John Waters plays the head of a family which spends its time poaching animals in the Pacific to sell to overseas entrepreneurs, even wanting to sell Nim's pet sea lion to a Russian circus – which means rescue scenes. He plays his role very broadly bracket as he should, providing comedy for to balance the more serious intentions of Nim. He has two sons, one of whom is particularly vain, especially about his face, though he suffers quite a lot of bee stings and swellings. The other son tends to be overlooked and neglected. Of course, they get their comeuppance.
To preserve the island, Nim needs to find and record the presence of endangered species. This she does with the help of Edmond and his camera.
Which means then that all ends well. (It is encouraging to see that the minister for planning in Queensland has a strong environmental outlook.).
A film for the younger family, especially children 12 and under.
Fr Peter Malone MSC is an associate of the Australian Catholic Office for Film & Broadcasting.
Out April 4 2013.