Genre: Crime Comedy Running Time: 1 hr. 39 min.
Release Date: June 15th, 2007 MPAA Rating: PG
Director: Andrew Fleming Actors: Emma Roberts, Max Thieriot, Amy Bruckner, Kay Panabaker, Tate Donovan, Laura Harring, Caroline Aaron, Marshall Bell, Daniella Monet, Rachel Leigh Cook
learly catering toward a young audience, “Nancy Drew” is an effervescent mystery manufactured from equal parts comedy, adventure, and sappiness. Not fashioned comparably enough to the original novels by Carolyn Keene (who was actually several authors) to merit using the popular title character (other than for presold value), the film still has enough heart about it to thoroughly entertain its target viewership. The adults who accompany their children, however, may feel that director Andrew Fleming (“Threesome,” “The Craft,” “Dick”) is trying a little too earnestly to shove a “do the right thing” theme down their throats – much like Nancy’s signature lemon cake.
Nancy Drew (Emma Roberts) is a forever sleuthing, noble detective, who itches only for more clues and the next case to solve. When her father decides to move to Hollywood for the summer, she purposely chooses a somewhat haunted mansion for them to stay in, knowing that an unsolved murder occurred there years earlier. Carefully and craftily plucking leads from everywhere and everyone she encounters, she eventually gets mixed up with a band of ne’er-do-wells who threaten her life as she gets too close to the secrets behind actress Dehlia Daywood’s mysterious demise. Aided by her longtime boyfriend, Ned (Max Thieriot), and the spunky young Corky (Josh Flitter), Nancy is intent on wrapping things up nicely and neatly, despite her father’s constant warnings of the dangers of a young girl taking up work better suited for the police.
To start things off, the opening scene is grossly over-the-top and cartoonish, setting a horrible first impression. Like a slightly grown up Dora the Explorer or Harriet the Spy, the obnoxiously cheery Nancy Drew catches the crooks (who are also ridiculous and comical thanks to a cameo by Chris Kattan), negotiates with them, and serves them up to the police with a bow on top. Live action has never looked so corny.
Granted that the film is targeting preteen girls, it still fails to find appeal even on that restrictive level. The second half of the film picks up a touch, and the editing and camerawork became slightly less like a music video, but dramatic, slow-motion shots work to bewilder audiences, ensuring that they won’t be able to figure out whether to laugh at the absurdity or gaze in awe. Other scenes, including an emergency tracheotomy and the overly geeky public-service-announcement ending, raise questions as to what hidden agendas may have lurked behind the narrative.
The original series of Nancy Drew mysteries from the ‘30s were written by Carolyn Keene, a pseudonym for numerous authors who kept up the storytelling of the confident, strong female heroine. Although the books are a bit outdated (despite constant revisions to keep up with the times) they were never penned to be so outrageously silly. Here, Nancy Drew is presented as an uber-nerd – an outcast (why are outcasts always portrayed by such attractive people?) who can only fit in by doing impossibly ridiculous acts of heroism. She is surrounded by stereotypical characters, including a Warren Beatty-esque, overprotective father, ultra-hip classmates, and dumbed-down villains. The only unique entity among them is Corky, a smaller, shorter, and squat sidekick who serves to implement a bizarre love triangle and provide nonstop, slapstick comedy relief.
Serving as another example of a family-friendly film that opts for predicaments too severe to sensibly resolve, “Nancy Drew” leaves viewers with unbelievable, unlikely, and anticlimactic resolutions. Although the antagonists attempt to blow her up, run her over, and wave guns around, no one gets hurt. And so the baddies are chalked up as hokey and diluted and utterly ineffective. And the end montage, in which pure sugary goodness and an unrelenting motif of righteousness blankets the entire production, is both upsettingly redundant and a far cry from anything even remotely evocative of the source material – or the classic films with Bonita Granville. This 2007 venture may be an attempt to modernize the cultural icon, but it retains little beyond the lead character’s name.
– Mike Massie