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Movie Review: Nancy Drew

Nancy Drew
Directed by Andrew Fleming
Written by Fleming and Tiffany Paulsen from the characters by Carolyn Keene (pseudonym of Mildred Wert Benson)
Warner Bros.

Many critics might give a movie like Nancy Drew a pass because it’s a movie comprised mostly of youngsters who definitely aren’t asking for brutal criticism in their lives, and it’s just a simple mystery movie.  You know, I’d have given this a pass too if it were just a simple mystery movie.

But since we’re in these modern times, where updating an old character means updating his or her environment to include all the social pressures of being a teenager, the movie tacks on a dose of more nonsense surrounding Nancy Drew’s unpopularity at school, her aw-shucks love life, and trying to make dad happy by not sleuthing, which you will hear in a drinking-game record amount of times.

Nancy Drew (the appealing Emma Roberts) and dad (Tate Donovan) are moving to California in a house where a murdered Hollywood actress named Dehlia Draycott (Laura Elena Harring) once lived.  Part of this new start is that Nancy mustn’t get into any mysteries, but of course she does.  And who else could possibly find tons of clues that bumbling detectives could not have possibly seen right in front of their faces 25 years ago when Dehlia was killed?

Oh, but the stealth sleuthing is hard.  She has to go to school, where she’s unpopular because she’s a nerd, even though she’s a really pretty nerd.  A couple of mean girls apparently have nothing better to do than to pick on her, and she gains a 12-year-old sidekick named Corky (Josh Flitter) who has a big crush on her.  Too bad for Corky, Nancy is spoken for back home by Ned Nickerson (Max Theriot).

Nancy starts delving into Dehlia’s history, and starts finding clues, leading her to Dehlia’s former manager Dashiel Biedermeyer (Barry Bostwick), her former groundskeeper Leshing (Marshall Bell), and her daughter Jane Brighton (Rachel Leigh Cook).  Someone doesn’t want her snooping around, so she regularly receives death threats and kid-movie attempts on her life.

Like I said, it would have been a little harmless flick if the filmmakers had just concentrated on the mystery and not all of the extraneous stuff.  This kid Josh Flitter is the latest in the long line of kids who gets parts because he’s really outgoing and probably funny to all the adults in the room when he talks, but on film this act gets old really quick.  I wish him all the best, but when I see License to Wed I’m almost certainly going to wish evil upon him.  Emma Roberts looks destined to be a star like her aunt Julia, and hopefully better films come along to showcase her talent.

And yeah, I’m probably being too hard on this movie, but Nancy Drew, the Hardy Boys, etc., are sleuths.  We never cared about their personal lives.  They just got into some mysteries and used their brains to get through it, and they were filled with suspense.  That’s what’s largely missing here.

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