Carolyn Keene's beloved girl sleuth goes to Hollywood

Nancy Drew

on June 15, 2007 by John P. McCarthy
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Just as writers are instructed to write what they know, filmmakers usually make movies about what they are most familiar with. So it figures that, in this big-screen adaptation, the heroine of Carolyn Keene's books goes to Hollywood and investigates the case of a murdered screen siren in this perky mishmash. Think Clueless meets Sunset Boulevard meets Scooby-Doo —a stylistic dissonance and cheery lack of literary pretension that will bother many viewers.

While the beloved stories aren't great literature, turning them into a virtual cartoon shows bad taste. Then again, tweenyboppers aren't likely to complain—they're accustomed to pastiche--and parents will welcome the smart and energetic role model, portrayed with adequate charisma by Emma Roberts.

The retro girl detective makes an awkward first impression, however, courtesy of a poor opening scene in which she foils a church caper in her hometown of River Heights. It's immediately clear that where the production design, music and costuming are concerned, “timeless” means a confused jumble—the overall tone falls somewhere between ironic and sincere.

Nancy then travels to the West Coast where her dad (Tate Donovan) has business. Although she's vowed to give up sleuthing, she can't resist probing the 25-year-old murder of a starlet named Dehlia Draycott (not to be confused with the Black Dahlia), whose mansion they rent and who was found floating in the pool. At Hollywood High, Nancy is mocked for her classic dress sense but gains a 12-year-old admirer, Corky (Josh Flitter). Meanwhile, Ned (Max Thieriot) arrives from back home to create puppy-love tension and look pretty.

Nancy's fashion faux pas and lack of coolness are nothing compared to the movie's plot gaps, unsuccessful jokes and old-fashioned continuity problems. She may have a neat and orderly mind, but the picture doesn't. Unfulfilled nostalgia for an endearing literary franchise parallels a longing for more competent moviemaking.
Distributor: Warner Bros.
Cast: Emma Roberts, Josh Flitter, Max Thieriot, Daniella Monet, Rachael Leigh Cook, Tate Donovan and Barry Bostwick
Director: Andrew Fleming  
Screenwriters: Andrew Fleming and Tiffany Paulsen
Producer: Jerry Weintraub
Genre: Comedy thriller
Rating: PG for mild violence, thematic elements and brief language
Running time: 97 min.
Release date:  June 15, 2007
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