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Overall Rating
2.82

Awesome: 0%
Worth A Look40.82%
Just Average: 16.33%
Pretty Crappy: 26.53%
Sucks: 16.33%

7 reviews, 7 user ratings


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Nancy Drew
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by Peter Sobczynski

"Hey, At Least She Solves The Mystery Of What Happened To Rachael Leigh Cook"
2 stars

There are essentially two approaches that one can take in bringing Nancy Drew, the eternally popular teen sleuth who has been an enduring favorite of young girls of all ages since the publication of “The Secret of the Old Clock” back in 1930, to the silver screen in 2007–they can either go for a retro take that fully embraces all of the cliches one associates with the series (secret passageways, hidden clues and the like) without any sort of irony or a hip, contemporary version that offers a knowing spoof of those hoary old conventions while updating them for the iPhone generation in the way that the late, great “Veronica Mars” did so brilliantly. The problem with “Nancy Drew” is that it tries to use both of those approaches at the same time and the end result is a film that, despite a few nice moments here and there and an enormously appealing central performance from Emma Roberts in the title role, is too silly to work up much in the way of suspense and too wrapped up in its less-than-compelling mystery to ever really take off as a comedy.

After a prologue showing our heroine bringing a couple of goofy thugs in a sequence that finds her negotiating with the D.A. and tumbling off of a rooftop, we learn that Nancy is leaving her pleasantly anachronistic hometown of River Heights for Los Angeles, where her father, the venerated attorney Carson Drew (Tate Donovan) has been summoned for several months to work on a case for high-powered muckety-muck Dashiel Biedermeyer (Barry Bostwick)–of course, if he has to go all the way to River Heights to find a suitable attorney to put on retainer, he may not be all that muckety after all. Although she has promised her father that she won’t indulge in any sleuthing while in L.A., this promise becomes impossible to honor when Nancy discovers that the house they have rented comes fully equipped with secret passageways, hidden rooms, a creepy caretaker (Marshall Bell) and a mystery involving the unsolved murder of Dehlia Draycott (Laura Elena Harring), the glamorous movie star who used to live there.

Of course, since this is a Nancy Drew movie after all, the producers have brilliantly intuited that audiences don’t want to see her running around trying to solve a mystery–they want to see her embroiled in a third-rate riff on “Clueless” in which her intelligence, good manners and sensible shoes mark her as a freak to her hipster classmates. As a result, she is saddled with a couple of mean girls (Daniella Monet and Kelly Vitz) who spend virtually all of their time making snarky remarks about her clothes, a goofball 12-year-old (Josh Flitter) with a crush and a wild party that begin to drift out of control even while our heroine is announcing the upcoming taffy pull. In those rare moments when she isn’t sparking an inadvertent fashion trend with her ever-present penny loafers, Nancy investigates the Draycott case and single-handedly uncovers new evidence that the cops apparently couldn’t be bothered to find the first time around–clues hidden within takes of her last film (apparently the studio graciously gave her all of the unused footage as a gift–perhaps in the sequel, Nancy could poke around further and come up with the missing reels of “Greed” and “The Magnificent Ambersons” as well), a mysterious box (which should provoke a few smiles from older viewers who remember the last movie involving Laura Elena Harring and a mysterious box in Hollywood–a little thing called “Mulholland Drive”) and Jane Brighton (Rachel Leigh Cook), a young woman who may be Dehlia’s previously unknown daughter and, therefore, the rightful heir to her fortune.

The problem with “Nancy Drew” is that it spins out these two parallel plots but never gives us a single reason to care about either of them. The “Clueless” riff is simply inexplicable–it is never funny for a second and there are even times when you get the sense that the filmmakers are joining in with the mean girls in making fun of their heroine for having the temerity to excel at school and not dress like the floor of Paris Hilton’s closet. To add to the aggravation, the addition of the mean girls and the lovestruck kid means that such beloved characters in the Drewniverse are either disposed of with a brief cameo (such as her beloved best pals Bess and George) or shoehorned into plot developments that have no reason to exist. (Stalwart sorta-boyfriend Ned Nickerson, played by Max Thieriot, eventually turns up solely so that one of the mean girls can try to lure him away from Nancy while he finds himself competing against a 12-year-old for her PG-rated favors.) This is all dumb, Level One stuff and I was actually a little surprised that director/co-writer Andrew Fleming–whose previous efforts have included such smart teen-oriented films as the underrated “The Craft” and the hilarious go-out-and-rent-this-right-now-if-you-haven’t-seen-it “Dick,” a film that offered us the singular sight of Kirsten Dunst and Michelle Williams inadvertently cracking the Watergate case while the latter develops a powerful crush on Richard Nixon–would stoop to material this flat and flimsy.

Then again, maybe Fleming and co-writer Tiffany Paulsen jammed all of this extraneous material into the proceedings in an effort to distract us from the fact that they mystery they have concocted here makes your average “Scooby-Doo” episode look fabulously complex by comparison. For starters, the time frame of the original mystery makes little sense–the footage of glamorous Hollywood premieres and movie magazine covers that are offered up to show Dehlia’s past suggests the 1950's but we soon learn that all of this happened only 25 years ago, during the golden age of Old Hollywood that gave us “Megaforce” and “Spacehunter: Adventures in the Forbidden Zone.” (This disconnect is so jarring at times that I suspect that all of it was supposed to have happened 50 years ago at one point and the period was cut in half on the assumption that kids would rather see Nancy helping the likes of Rachel Leigh Cook than someone twice her age.) As for the ending, this is one of those films in which virtually all of the supporting characters exist only to serve as red herrings to distract us from the real villain, who seems so unnecessary to the proceedings that we are supposed to be shocked when they turn out to be the culprit in the end. (To be fair, the film does make it a little more challenging since so many of the characters on display are patently unnecessary, though not necessarily by design.) In additional efforts to convince us that exciting things are actually going on, the film also resorts to such time-consuming elements as Nancy eluding kidnappers in an old building (which is pretty much keeping with the tone of the original stories), a car chase (somewhat less in keeping with the tone of the original stories) and a bit where our heroine has to dispose of a bomb that someone has tossed into her car (which suggests that someone got confused as to what film they were making and decided to uphold the tone of the original “Die Hard” stories, complete with Nancy ducking an enormous fireball without getting singed).

“Nancy Drew” isn’t a very good film–it doesn’t even compare favorably to the old B-movie adaptations from the 1930's with Bonita Granville in the lead–but it may well serve as a reasonably pleasant diversion for the generally underserved tween-girl audience and contains a couple of bright spots here and there for older and more easily bored viewers. The central one is Emma Roberts, the rising young Nickelodeon refugee who has not yet made a good film so far (her previous efforts being “Aquamarine” and some direct-to-video nonsense that teamed her up with a secret-agent monkey) but who demonstrates enough genuine warmth, pluck and good cheer to make you wish that she would get around to appearing in something worthy of her talents. There are also a few isolated bits here and there that score modest laughs even though they are pretty much irrelevant to the rest of the proceedings. My favorite is the one where Nancy finds herself on the set of a period detective movie points out the historical inaccuracies to the frazzled director while the star of the show (a big-name cameo that shall remain nameless here) looks on with bemusement. If only a real-life Nancy Drew had wandered onto the set of “Nancy Drew” and lectured Fleming on what should and shouldn’t appear in such an endeavor–more River Heights and Bess and George, fewer explosions and musical montages and for God’s sake, more smugglers!

link directly to this review at http://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=15572&reviewer=389
originally posted: 06/15/07 01:46:02
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User Comments

7/05/09 art THIS MOVIE STINK"S! 1 stars
9/01/08 Sam Great if you are 11 yrs old .. atrocious acting .. 3 stars
4/14/08 ACTION MOVIE FAN LAME OKAY FOR KIDS MOVIE-LITTLE TO OFFER ANYONE 2 stars
10/23/07 William Goss Wholesome w/o being preachy, enough so to make up for tonal missteps and general hokiness. 3 stars
6/24/07 BoyInTheDesignerBubble Nepotism strikes again. I miss the days when talent got you the job! 1 stars
6/19/07 samanark We enjoyed it and that it was really cute. Loved the outfits 4 stars
6/16/07 bullit16 Not as bad as I thought it would be. My kids certainly enjoyed it 4 stars
IF YOU'VE SEEN THIS FILM, RATE IT!
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USA
  15-Jun-2007 (PG)
  DVD: 11-Mar-2008

UK
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