Nancy Drew, girl detective,
is one of the defining characters in literature for young girls. There
are more than 100 Nancy Drew Mystery books which have been written since the
The character has also done
her share of time on TV, from the 50s serials that ran on the Mickey Mouse
Club through the most recent incarnation in the late 70s -- The Hardy
Boys/Nancy Drew Mysteries in which Pamela Sue Martin played the girl
sleuth. There was also a French series about the character in the
1990s and a TV movie just five years ago. Nancy has even become the
heroine of a very popular series of computer games.
The one thing which Nancy
has never been was the star of a major motion picture. (Though there
were three hour-long films about her in the late 1930s.)
Until now, that is.
I wish I could say that
Nancy Drew the movie was worth the wait, but even as a very casual fan
(as a boy I read The Hardy Boys, not Nancy, but I do have a basic
knowledge of her world) it seems like a bit of a blown opportunity.
Rather than play it
straight, the writers decide to make Nancy Drew more of a comedy,
co-opting the vibe of The Brady Bunch Movie, in which a square
old-fashioned character is plunked down in the middle of modern day Los
Angeles. (Nancy's old co-horts, the Hardy Boys, also seem to be
getting this type of post-modern makeover in the planned Tom Cruise/Ben
Stiller film Hardy Men.)
This type of thing can be
pulled off well (again, I have to point to The Brady Bunch movies),
but more often the joke wears off long before the movie finishes. (For
examples of this style gone bad, check out Starsky and Hutch, The Beverly
Hillbillies, Charlie's Angels and way too many others to mention.)
In fairness, Nancy Drew
is much better than those last three films -- though not as good as the
On the plus side, star Emma
Roberts (of TV's Unfabulous, daughter of actor Eric Roberts... and,
yes, as every story has to point out, niece of Julia Roberts) has a
natural sweetness and charm that bodes well for a long career. She
takes the role with the utmost seriousness and single-handedly makes the
movie worth seeing.
Sadly, the comic bits
diminish the classic characters and the whole raison-d'etre for
Nancy. The mystery is not taken seriously enough -- in fact it's kind
of dumb -- and it seems like Nancy just stumbles over some of the biggest
clues. This lack of concern with the spine of the story seems a wasted
opportunity. The Nancy Drew books never took themselves too
seriously or were too deep as far as plotlines -- but they did recognize
that the mystery was the most important aspect.
The storyline -- or as
close to a storyline as it has -- is that Nancy's lawyer father (Tate
Donovan) gets transferred to Los Angeles and leaves it up to Nancy to pick
the house. Nancy, being addicted to puzzles, rents the home of an
actress whose death is one of the great unsolved murders in Tinseltown.
The one rule that dad has
for his budding sleuth -- no more mysteries while in the City of Angels, so
Nancy must hide that she is looking into the cold case. (Which is an
odd theme which recurs throughout the film. As I said before, I only
have a layman's knowledge of the earlier versions of the series, but I was
always under the impression that Mr. Drew was very supportive of his
daughter's investigations.) She leaves behind the world's wimpiest
boyfriend and her impossibly old car and goes to the big city.
This sense of anachronism
runs throughout the film, hitting the point that it becomes distracting.
The storyline claims that the actress at the heart of this ghost story
died at 43 in the mid-80s, though most of the film clips and photographs of her
make the starlet appear
to be from the 40s or 50s.
In the modern world, the
eternally chipper and excessively clever and resourceful young girl deals
with a lovestruck, wise-cracking twelve-year-old (Josh Flitter) stuck-up
girls (Danielle Monet and Kelly Vitz), unmarried mothers (Rachael Leigh
Cook), non-life-threatening hoods and an overly friendly lawyer (Barry
Nancy uses her own
deductive reasoning and a series of MacGyver-esque contraptions to
get to the bottom of things. Most of these girl-scout tricks are
clever, but some of them are just odd -- like the scene where Nancy has to
give a girl a tracheotomy with a pen during a party. Really, why was
that in this film?
ends up being a cute enough movie -- one that will
probably more than satisfy the tween-age girls it is targeted for -- but the
character and the star deserved so much more.
As a special extra, the
pay-per-view release of Nancy Drew is called the "Drew's Clues"
edition, in which the movie is given the pop-up video treatment.
Trivia facts that are tossed out for the audience, ranging from very
interesting little factoids about the stars and characters to somewhat
unnecessary fluff -- for example, they point out nearly every single one of
the 27 times that Nancy changes outfits in the movie. Still, the
Drew's Clues add a sense of fun and intrigue for hardcore fans and will be
particularly effective in spicing up repeat viewings.
Copyright ©2007 PopEntertainment.com. All rights reserved.
Posted: March 18, 2008.