Emma Roberts, Rachael Leigh Cook, Tate Donovan
Directed by Andrew Fleming
Originally released 2007
Widescreen and fullscreen versions
Warner Home Video 2008
Nancy Drew is a curious mixture of comedy, homage, adventure, mystery and spoof all rolled into one and we can only hope that a second more mystery focused offering is in the offing: Emma Roberts deserves that much. As Nancy Drew has come to the screen (both large and small) over the years she has done so in a variety of iterations varying from the sweet to the bombshell (Pamela Sue Martin in the 1980’s). Each time an effort was made to make Nancy relevant to the viewers of the day which proves that some people never learn from their mistakes. Nancy Drew works and survives for the same reason Sherlock Holmes, Hercule Poirot and Sam Spade work and survive: we buy into the story.
From the penny loafers, traveling by train, to her Nash Metropolitan Nancy Drew is a throw back to a simpler time which is where the movie makers should have left it instead of dragging her to Los Angeles for a series of site gags and comic relief from predictable character types. This doesn’t mean the movie doesn’t work – strangely it does work and Nancy survives with enough character intact to fuel another movie should producers decide to take a more serious tack with the movie. Nancy and her lawyer father (Tate Donovan) relocate to Los Angeles (probably to save money by avoiding creating or locating an appropriate River Heights) where they move into a mansion chosen by Nancy because it has a history behind it. Nancy and her father move into the mansion once owned by starlet Delia Draycott who was mysteriously murdered at a party she was throwing two decades previous. Naturally enough this is the reason why Nancy chose the mansion to reside in during her father’s extended business trip to begin with.
As Nancy investigates the death of Delia Draycott she also tries to integrate into a modern high school where such things as modesty, intelligence, talent and athleticism are frowned upon by the daily inhabitants. Nancy meets Corky (Josh Fitter) who provides ongoing comic relief and dubious support for Nancy through the course of the story. Nancy Drew succeeds because it keeps enough of the elements of the real Nancy Drew (hidden passage ways, inductive and deductive reasoning and some good chase scenes) to keep fans engaged and keeps it just this side of going too far. This version of Nancy Drew could easily get screen time on any major network or even the Disney channel without being edited for content or language. It is a good story with just enough clues and mystery to engage its target audience. The fact that Nancy is her own person and will remain that way despite peer pressure and even pressure from her father to conform to the “norms” is a nice affirmation to see in a major theatrical release for a change.
From a Nancy Drew literary fan’s perspective (I really did grow up reading Nancy Drew and she inspired a love of female detectives that I have until this day) there is a lot wrong from the start of the movie. Everyone knows Nancy lives in a large brick house set back from the street with a big garden – not a clapboard bungalow. Carson Drew isn’t depicted even once with a cigar in his mouth: HERESY! Bess Martin is practically non-existent in this movie and George is no where to be found either. Corky while interesting is not Ned and Ned is, well, a little less athletic that the triple threat athlete of the literary rendition of Nancy Drew. With luck they will get it spot on the next time around but for now this is the best we have so far and worth the watch especially if you have a daughter between 7 and 13 years old.