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RETURN TO NIM'S ISLAND

SYNOPSIS:
A few years after the events of Nim's Island (2008), 14-year-old Nim (Bindi Irwin) is more determined than ever to protect her island and the animals that call it home. With ruthless resort developers and greedy wildlife poachers threatening the existence she loves, Nim realizes she and her animal pals can't defend their home alone. To save her island, she is forced to combine forces with an outsider: Edmund (Toby Wallace), a runaway from the mainland.

Review by Louise Keller:
The inspired casting of Bindi Irwin adds an extra element to this sun-drenched family adventure in which Nim's island sanctuary is threatened by developers and poachers. The late conservationist Steve Irwin's 14 year old daughter is a natural in the role, requiring her to be passionate about the tropical environment in which she lives and the animals who live there. The animals play a major part, notably Selkie the Sea Lion, who swims, yawns, laughs, shakes hands and dances right into our hearts. Making good use of the beautiful Queensland rainforest and beach setting, this sequel has plenty of appeal with its heart-warming story, endearing characters and colourful assortment of wildlife that weave their way into the narrative.

It has been five years since Abigail Breslin played Nim in the original film based on Wendy Orr's books, with Jodie Foster in the role of her favourite fictional literary hero, Alex Rover and Gerard Butler as her Dad. This time around the cast is different as is the focus, which concentrates on the threat to their home that confronts Nim and her father Jack (Matthew Lillard).

The mood is set from the very first frames, as we watch Irwin swimming in crystal clear cerulean waters among delicately-coloured coral before riding on the back of her Sea Lion best friend and confidante. Nerida Tyson-Chew's beautiful music score enhances the moment. (The entire score is delightfully fluid, playful and curious.) Nim's tree-house home, accessed via an inclinator through the lush rainforest is any child's fantasy and TV director Brendan Maher cleverly focuses on the natural habitat, allowing stunning natural imagery to be captured by cinematographer Judd Overton.

Lillard is perhaps the film weakest link (he is no Gerard Butler), but it matters little as he quickly departs the island for meetings in Brisbane, leaving Nim alone with the scene-stealing Selkie, Fred the passive bearded dragon lizard and the bumbling roly-poly lab assistant Felix (Nathan Derrick), who leaves the lab to 'embrace the chaos'. The first of the'intruders' is Neighbours star Toby Wallace as Edmund, who has run away from squabbling parents and lands on the island on the pretext of finding a gold-back trigger fish. Wallace has a great presence and given the right roles will go far. John Waters looks as though he is having great fun as the villainous poacher Booker, whose two sons are in perpetual squabble mode. Jack Pearson plays the narcissistic favourite son who kills time take self-portraits on his iphone while Sebastian Gregory is resentfully put to work.

The script (by Ray Boseley and Cathy Randall) is smart in that it uses elements in the environment as part of the storyline and ones that are credible in the context of 14 year olds. 'Read books' is Nim's reply when Booker incredulously asks what she does without television; the irony of the crashing bookcase that knocks him on the head does not escape us. Maher keeps the tone light, bright and just right as the search goes underway for three endangered animal species to save the island, leaving the door wide open for the next in the franchise - should the filmmakers opt to do so. Irwin may not be the world's greatest actress but she has that special something: charisma, energy and passion, just like her father. The fact that the environmental themes complement Steve Irwin's philosophies is an added bonus. Fun for all the family.

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CRITICAL COUNT
Favourable: 1
Unfavourable: 0
Mixed: 0

RETURN TO NIM'S ISLAND (G)
(Aust, 2013)

CAST: Matthew Lillard, Bindi Irwin, Toby Wallace, John Waters, Sebastian Gregory, Jack Pearson, Nathan Derrick

PRODUCER: Chris Brown, Tom Hoffie, Paula Mazur,

DIRECTOR: Brendan Maher

SCRIPT: Ray Boseley, Cathy Randall, Sarah Carbiener, Erica Rosbe

CINEMATOGRAPHER: Judd Overton

EDITOR: Geoffrey Lamb

MUSIC: Nerida Tyson-Chew

PRODUCTION DESIGN: Scott Bird

RUNNING TIME: 86 minutes

AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Pinnacle

AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: Qld: March 28, 2013; Vic: April 4, 2013; NSW, SA: March 11, 2013; WA: March 18, 2013







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