Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Movie Review: Nancy Drew (2007)

Stars: 4 out of 5
Pros: Well developed, believable mystery
Cons: Can't decide how to treat Nancy's character
The Bottom Line:
An uneven tone
Covered by fun mystery
Fans of books should like

Nancy Drew is a Fun Mystery for Pre-Teen Girls

I caved.

When I first heard that they were having another go at turning teen sleuth Nancy Drew into a movie, I wasn't going to see it. After all, I tired of Nancy years ago (yes, I did read her as a kid). And I could tell from the first preview that they were going to stray from the books. But the more I watched the previews, the more I decided to give Nancy Drew a chance. And I must admit I was pleasantly surprised.

Nancy Drew (Emma Roberts) is the best detective in Riverheights. There is no case she can't solve. And, thanks to her detective kit, she's ready for anything.

Her dad, lawyer Carson (Tate Donovan), has a temporary assignment in Los Angeles, and the teenager gets to go along. In fact, Carson let her pick out the house they are renting. Naturally, Nancy picked one with a mystery. Seems 25 years ago, actress Dehlia Draycott disappeared for five months. Then, just a few days after she came back, she was found dead in her pool. Her murder was never solved.

Unfortunately, just before the trip, Carson makes Nancy promise to stop sleuthing. And Nancy really does try to live up to her word. But when she begins stumbling on clues to what happened in the past, she just can't stop thinking about them. Where will the trail lead? Will Nancy solve the old crime? Or will she keep her word to her father and work toward becoming a normal teen?

Warning: The following paragraph was written by an obsessive book person. Let's start by getting some stuff of my chest. Why were Bess and George reduced to cameos? They are an important part of the books. The fact that Nancy's housekeeper Hannah only had a cameo didn't bother me too much since she often got little more then that in the books. At least Ned (Max Thieriot) got a bit more of a role, showing up on Los Angeles for a while. However, I did enjoy seeing Nancy's car (a roadster). I just wish they had included those other characters.

Okay, now we can review this movie as it is.

And it's a decent movie. The mystery is well done with plenty of clues being dropped along the way. I figured a couple things out before Nancy, but only a few minutes before.. She was smart. In fact, there was a running gag about her figuring things out and in her excitement not telling her new friends in California, leaving them in the dark about what they were searching for. Nancy was in danger several times, but she always got out of it by using her wits. The plot and danger was perfectly in keeping with the things Nancy faced in the books, so fans of the series will know what to expect.

The movie did provide plenty of laughs along with the danger. Nancy views the world differently then everyone else, and many of the laughs are at this culture clash. The movie balances the comic parts with the more suspenseful moments well.

The acting made everything come to life. Emma Roberts was great as Nancy, which was a pretty difficult role to pull off. There were no real standouts from the rest of the cast. They all played their parts well.

But there are a couple problems with the movie. The first is just a plot question. Just how long were Nancy and Carson in Los Angeles? It seemed like only three weeks or so, yet Nancy was enrolled in school. It seemed like more trouble then it was worth. But I'm probably just looking at that part too critically.

My main complaint was with Nancy's character itself. The movie shows her as a throwback to everything innocent and wholesome from the 50's. Additionally, she's perfect, sickeningly so at times. And, like the books, she can do whatever is needed when the plot calls for it. At times this got annoying, but for the most part, I enjoyed the joke because I have often felt this way about the character.

The problem comes when the movie doesn't know what to do with her. At times, it seems to be mocking her, like in the Brady Bunch movies.. At times, it seems to be praising her. This double minded approach made for a weird tone. While most of the time she was obviously someone to look up to, the times when they tried to mock her character (which is ripe for mocking) were jarring.

Not surprisingly, this movie aims at pre-teen girls, the usual reader of the books. With a bit of light romance with Ned (they're just friends at the beginning) and some fun with fashion, I think they will love it.

Despite the dueling tones, Nancy Drew is fun. It's got a great mystery and will entertain the target audience.

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