Being the male that I am, I spent several of my elementary school years reading The Hardy Boys books. They were quick reads, loaded with action and wit. There was even a line of books that teamed up The Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew, the subject of Andrew Fleming’s latest film. Having never read Nancy Drew books, I pictured her as a female version of The Hardy Boys; complete with formula storytelling that pleases kids aged 7-11. If this film is any indication, I had it pictured pretty well.
As scripted by Fleming and Tiffany Paulsen, Nancy Drew (Roberts) is a transplant from the 1950’s into the present. She wears her plaid clothes, talks so properly that it’s scary, and simply can’t understand the actions of the teens around her. As the film opens, Nancy and her father, Carson (Donovan), are relocating to Los Angeles because of his job situation. In a development that happens exactly never, Nancy gets to choose the house they’ll live in. Naturally, she chooses the former home of deceased actress Dehlia Draycott (Harring), who was murdered under mysterious circumstances. Nancy begins investigating the unsolved case, which leads her to plenty of unsavory characters as well as a few new friends.
For the young girls’ crowd, this will play very well. Fleming keeps a steady pace and there are frequent laughs to be had. The action scenes are innocent enough, as are the red herring jolts that will have the young ones jumping and giggling in their seats. Unlike so many live-action films aimed at kids over the past few years, Nancy Drew actually feels like clean, fantasy-driven entertainment that young girls will be able to relate to and root for.
The biggest mistake made is not playing the transplant scenario for laughs. Nancy, with her penny loafers and near-genius level of knowledge, is a total dork. Rather than pulling a Brady Bunch Movie and making us laugh at the differences in eras, Fleming and Paulsen put on a poker face and we wind up agreeing with the kids who look at her like she’s some kind of alien. The angle definitely could have used some polish.
Emma Roberts does a suitable job as Nancy Drew. She’s able to deliver her grammatically-correct dialogue with enough gusto to be taken seriously, and wisely avoids crossing into the realm of snobby. She is not one of the most talented or memorable young actresses working today, but she does bring the energy the role demands. The supporting work consists of throwaway characters for the most part, but Josh Flitter gets some laughs as wisecracking Corky. He played a nearly identical role in The Greatest Game Ever Played and his comic timing is spot-on. Faring not so well is Max Thieriot as Ned, Nancy’s love interest, who looks so lost that it actually becomes distracting.
Is this the start of a new franchise? Only the dollar signs will tell, but I can certainly think of worse material for a series of films than this. While imminently likable, there’s no question that opportunities were blown that would have made this a memorable treat for families. Regardless, this is more wholesome entertainment than anything your little girl is watching on the tube.
Studio: Warner Bros. Pictures
Length: 99 Minutes
Rating: PG for mild violence, thematic elements and brief language.
Theatrical Release: June 15, 2007
Directed by: Andrew Fleming
Written by: Andrew Fleming & Tiffany Paulsen.
Cast: Emma Roberts, Tate Donovan, Barry Bostwick, Laura Elena Harring, Josh Flitter, Rachael Leigh Cook