Nancy Drew

Nancy Drew

Film review by: Witney Seibold



            I didn’t read Carolyn Keene’s Nancy Drew books when I was a kid, but I did take in a few of the Hardy Boys’ adventures. From what I gather, even at the time the mid 1930s), the Boys and Drew were considered almost laughably wholesome in their demeanor. This seems to be the only element director Andrew Fleming and his co-screenwriter Tiffany Paulsen have adapted in tact for their 2007 film version of Nancy Drew.

            Their Nancy (played with wide-eyed pluck by Emma Roberts) is polite to everyone, has perfect posture, wears penny loafers, and exchanges delicious home-baked pastries for favors. She is often criticized by her modern-day classmates, the cynical officials at her school, and even her workaholic father Carson (Tate Donovan). They all feel she should be a “normal” teenager. She often shrugs them off with a polite smile and “I like old-fashioned things” by way of explanation, but one of the central conflicts of the film is Nancy’s compulsive need to investigate mysteries and remain as polite and as old-fashioned as possible.


            And therein lies the central problem with “Nancy Drew:” It won’t let Nancy be Nancy. It would be fine to have her be an ultra-square in modern day Los Angeles, but she is such a perfect role model for little girls, and such a non-threatening wholesome being, that her behavior should be celebrated, not compromised or questioned. I would prefer that she attract people with the strength of her character and her natural iconoclastic behavior, not her potential to be smart, but also be “normal.”


            I don’t want to see Nancy surfing the Internet to find information, I want to see her skulking about libraries. I want her to have a bigger vinyl collection. I want her to shun the cellular telephone, and embrace rotary dials. She already has a Nash Metropolitan convertible and wears penny loafers. Let’s get her into the past a little more.


            But I ramble. Onto the story: Nancy lives in Smalltown, MiddleAmerica, where she lived with her widower father, and solves more crimes and mysteries than the local law can. Her dad, a high-paid lawyer, gets a job in Hollywood, so they must move, leaving behind all that is plain and milquetoast, including Nancy’s would-be paramour Ned (Max Thieriot). Nancy got to choose the house, so she chooses one with a Mystery.


            Her new house (fully furnished, and lambasted as being “old” and “worn out,” even though it’s an enormous mansion in Hollywood Hills that probably sold for no less than $8 million) was one the home of Hollywood recluse Dehlia Draycott (Laura Elena Harring in flashbacks), and contains secret passageways, and attics full of dusty old papers to rifle through. Nancy finds a note about an altered will, and the hunt is on to figure out what it means.


            Does it have something to do with the house’s creepy caretaker (Marshall Bell)? Or perhaps the seemingly unconnected single mom (Rachael Leigh Cook)? Or maybe the house’s realtor (Monica Parker)? Or perhaps the high-powered lawyer (Barry Bostwick)? And just who is the mysterious “Z?”


            Along the way, Nancy accumulates a horny twelve-year-old fat kid named Corky (Josh Flitter). He flirts with her, asks her out, and follows her every move. He’s serves as a kind of sidekick, giving Nancy someone to talk to. His presence in the film is really disturbing. Not only does he add sexuality to otherwise sexless PG-rated material (even the cute  boyfriend character is so bland as to make one wonder if he even has genitals), but Corky is the latest in a unnerving Hollywood trend of including a lecherous prepubescent boy into anything for kids. Are there really any tweener boys in the world who behave this way? Nancy may be an excellent role model for little girls, but this Corky kid is a really bad example for the little boys.


            Nancy will appear in more films to be sure. I guess “Nancy Drew” is harmless enough, and Nancy herself, as played by Roberts, is a delight to watch. But the film had much more potential to give an American icon of sorts some real freshness.

Published in: on June 26, 2008 at 9:09 pm  Leave a Comment  

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