Nancy Drew
March 16, 2008

Thanks to the studio, I’ve just watched a screener of the enhanced Nancy Drew movie.

Emma Roberts stars as the perky teenage sleuth. (And I was surprised to see that Tate Donovan is playing dads now.) To keep the character faithful to decades of readers while still making a modern teen movie, the creators opted for a culture clash subtext. Nancy goes from being Rory Gilmore, the most popular girl in her small town, to being a smart, accomplished, completely unpopular girl in Hollywood. (It’s rather Cordelia-ish.)

Nancy Drew cover
Nancy Drew
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When Nancy and her dad move to California, they’re also forced to move into the modern day from their idyllic, old-fashioned small town where the sheriff gets help from Nancy and the whole town prays for their safe departure. Their spooky new house leads to Nancy investigating the mysterious disappearance of the actress who lived there decades ago (which means she was last seen in 1981, which made me feel OLD).

I think they messed up by taking Nancy away from her friends and giving her two shallow fashion-obsessed obstacles to interact with. The message is that Nancy is weird in the wrong ways. It’s ok to be pierced and wear strange-but-fashionable clothes. It’s not ok to be smart and value old-fashioned ideas and outfits. She saves the day, but she’s still a laughingstock at school. Although I did love Nancy’s ensembles. She wears plaid almost every time, but the skirts and jumpers are adorable.

(Ok, geek gripe now. One of the pop-ups says that penny loafers were last popular in the 50s. Does no one remember the preppie comeback in the 80s? I do. I wore penny loafers to school with polo shirts and Bermuda button bags in hot pink and lime green.)

I wanted to see a lot more of the distinctions between Nancy’s attitudes and abilities and the modern day. (I wished for almost a Brady Bunch movie approach.) There wasn’t nearly enough of that kind of material, though. Most of it is a slow-moving mystery where Nancy tries to find out what happened to the movie star. Much of the plot happens because the bad guys keep attacking her, silly choices made just to keep the action moving. I get the impression the filmmakers thought a movie aimed at teens had to be dumbed down.

Perhaps to make up for that, the version of the movie currently playing on Pay-Per-View and On Demand (and the one I watched) has been renamed Drew’s Clues and dubbed a “Movie That Pops”. Which means that pop-up video-style blips show up to give bits of trivia and making-of information. Unfortunately, I don’t think this version is available on DVD; instead, the disc includes a gag reel, a music video, and several mini-featurettes.

The very first pop-up tells us that “This movie is based on a popular book series”, shortly followed by “She solves mysteries and drives a cool car.” This did not impress me, but they did get better. When Chris Kattan showed up in an early cameo, his name appeared on-screen just as we were telling each other, “oh, it’s that guy.” That was handy. And the stunt information — how they were done, and which ones Roberts did herself — was interesting. Here’s a clip that shows examples.

And I love trivia like finding out the missing actress’s film titles are the names of Nancy Drew books.

I’d recommend this for the younger set, but I don’t think it’s of appeal to adults on their own, unfortunately. Find out more at the official site, where you can enter to win a $5,000 shopping spree.

10 Responses  
Jer writes:  

Much of the plot happens because the bad guys keep attacking her, silly choices made just to keep the action moving.

Huh. It sounds like the filmmakers might have gotten “Nancy Drew” mixed up with “The Hardy Boys.” What you describe above is the way I remember the Hardy Boys books working when I read them as a kid – and why I gave up on the series pretty quickly and read the Nancy Drew books instead.

It’s too bad the movie does sound as bad as every review I read of it last year. I really wanted a good Nancy Drew movie, but every commercial made it look like a “Brady Bunch”-lite movie without the charm of the “Brady Bunch” movie. And it sounds like that might have been right.

James Schee writes:  

I’m curious about the movie, but nothing from the ads I saw made me think of the Nancy Drew from those great books I read as a kid.(loved those and the Bobsy Twins as a kid)

She’s not with her friends Bess and George which is a point in the negative. Plus the addition of a brother seems awkward as well.

Johanna writes:  

That’s not her brother, but a kid from school who’s jumped grades and has a crush on her.

Rivkah writes:  

“It’s ok to be pierced and wear strange-but-fashionable clothes. It’s not ok to be smart and value old-fashioned ideas and outfits.”

That’s strange. Most the teens I know think “retro” = cool and hip, and IMHO, I agree. Half my wardrobe looks like it walked out of the 50’s because the 50’s had a lot of very flattering, feminine shaped clothing, unlike the bulky, baggy, formless cr*p that’s currently being pushed by most companies.

And most of the complements I get on my more blatantly 50’s style dress comes from teens and college students. Hasn’t hollywood picked up yet that originality and differences are in?


That’s frustrating. I would have actually watched this. They could have had a lot more fun with the plot staying in the small town and playing on and making fun of its quirks. Here, it just sound shallow and dumb.

*goes back to making entertainment for smart, quirky girls who are proud of their differences and not looked down on because of it*

James Schee writes:  

I just watched this movie now, and oddly we had some different takes on things.

I do wish Bess and George would have had more than cameo roles. Yet it was still kind of fun to watch.

I didn’t get a because Nancy was smart and capable that she’d be made fun of. It was more of a “she’s not one of us and she’s new so let’s go for it.” Type of deal to my view.

I thought it was a good message to send that Nancy never tried to change who she was in order to fit in with the other girls.(I was sure there’d be a “well I can change some to fit in” scene)

If anything the two fashion idiot girls seemed to be the ones who learned the most which is what a hero should do. (win people over)

Nancy herself was just great, and darn if it doesn’t make me want to pull out one of her books to read. (though in them she’s not this together)

Johanna writes:  

Glad you got a chance to check it out. It was a good performance by Emma Roberts.

James Schee writes:  

Yeah she looks to have as bright a future ahead as her aunt Julia. I wouldn’t have bought the movie, but it was worth the $1.08 I paid to rent it. (there’s a rental to go machine service called Redbox, that lets you rent movies by the day)

Phoebe writes:  

I found the previews kind of interesting, but they didn’t really tell about the mystery, which is what i wanted to know about. The movie was really great though and they should make another one, with bess and george in it, in River Heights. Not in Hollywood. Where did that idea come from anyway???

David K. writes:  

I think this movie would have been a good sequel, but they really should have done a movie that was first set in River Heights that established the characters and their relationships.

Johanna writes:  

Oh, good suggestion. I’d like to see that.


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