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'Nim's Island'

Jodie Foster is amusingly neurotic in this otherwise tiresome kid flick about a girl who summons a rescuer to her tropical island when her father disappears in a storm.

Foster plays Alexandra Rover, a housebound agoraphobe and adventure-book author with an Indiana Jones-like hero named, erm, Alex Rover. Nine-year-old Nim (Abigail Breslin), whose friends include a sea lion, a lizard and a pelican, doesn't quite grasp the distinction between Alex and Alexandra, and when her dad goes missing, she turns for help to the person she thinks is the heroic adventurer whose stories she's been reading.

Much computer-generated slapstick ensues, almost none of which will be amusing to audiences over Nim's age. But Foster's agoraphobic act is persuasively, compulsively, expansively weird. It may not be worth enduring sea-lion burps and lizard squawks for on your own account, but it'll prove diverting if you're stuck chaperoning the kids.

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Bob Mondello, who jokes that he was a jinx at the beginning of his critical career — hired to write for every small paper that ever folded in Washington, just as it was about to collapse — saw that jinx broken in 1984 when he came to NPR.