Nancy Drew
directed by Andrew Fleming
(Warner, 2007)

There comes a time in the life of every mother whose child is more than, say, 2 hours old when she takes a mental step back, looks around herself and, in the words of David Byrne, thinks: "How did I get here?"

That's the thought I had 15 minutes into my first -- but not final -- viewing of Nancy Drew, a movie based on the girl-niche book series. My 6-year-old daughters were interested enough, but I -- who spent countless childhood hours holed up somewhere reading my way through another adventure of the intrepid Nancy -- had only one thought.

Who is responsible for making the movie Nancy Drew boring?

Is it writer/director Andrew Fleming, for a plotline that can barely fill 90 minutes? Is it Emma Roberts, Julia's niece, whose spark flounders in a role that requires her to be hopelessly naive? Or, is it my expectation that a movie aimed at kids should still act like it cares: be a little inventive, engaging -- maybe even, considering it's supposed to be a mystery, a little suspenseful?

I'm going to pin it on Fleming, who has kept Nancy firmly in the 1950s, with knee socks, hair bands and kilts, while placing his 2007 film firmly in 21st-century Los Angeles.

Nancy's dad has been transferred to L.A. on business and, although she has promised to give up sleuthing, she can't help herself when she finds her house may be haunted by its former owner: a faded movie star. It's fun to watch Nancy match wits with the home's caretaker and to go along as she discovers the house may be hiding more than she bargained for.

But plopping her into modern L.A. does Nancy a disservice. It turns the focus from her mystery to her social status -- which, as you can imagine for a girl who packs a cloth place mat, carrots and cupcake for her cafeteria lunch, is pretty low. It takes all of Nancy's book spunkiness and quashes it.

Yes, she still has her smart little coupe. And she still has boyfriend (or is it just a boy friend?) Ned Nickerson. But pals Bess and George are left behind, as are fans of the real girl detective who came alive in those yellow-spined books.

review by
Jen Kopf

18 October 2008

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