Updating the beloved literary icon Nancy Drew to a more modern tango, the filmmakers behind this latest incarnation of everyone's favorite teen sleuth have made a very wise decision: instead of hipping the character up to bend to pop culture conformity, they've kept the character a square, only now she's living in a very round world.
Saying goodbye to her quaint home of River Heights, Nancy Drew (Emma Roberts) is headed to L.A. for the summer with her father (Tate Donovan). Promising her Pop to cap the sleuthing she craves, Nancy's vow is immediately broken when it's revealed the house they're renting has a secret past involving a dead screen idol (Laura Harring), a hidden will, and a daughter (Rachael Leigh Cook) who never knew her haunted mother. With pals Corky (Josh Flitter) and semi-crush Ned (Max Theiriot) in tow, Nancy heads off to solve the dangerous case.
Dating back to her 1930 introduction, the character of Nancy Drew has rolled her way through a myriad of media endeavors, most notably in the book realm, where hundreds of stories claim her name. Drew has been molded time and again to fit the era, but the angle writer/director Andrew Fleming plays here is that Nancy doesn't need an update at all. Now her plaid-and-kneesock fashion has a retro twinkle, and her appreciation for education, etiquette, and embracing challenges endearing and, fingers crossed, inspiring.
"Nancy Drew" is an entertaining picture that certainly plays a little stronger if you happen to be a prepubescent girl. Fleming has made his best movies when investigating the whirlwind despair and comedy of the teenage heart ("Dick," "The Craft"), and his instincts for the material suit him well again in "Drew."
Obviously this is not profound entertainment, but Fleming maintains a soft, fizzy smack to the pace of the film and to the surprises contained within. The film has a vast reservoir of affection not only for the Drew character but also the expectations that come with such an ingrained, iconic creature. There's an extensive (in some respects) mystery for Nancy to solve in the film and that is always the picture's primary preoccupation. Granted, the twists aren't the most dynamic pieces of scripting to grace the screen, but kids will surely eat it up - especially when Fleming tosses some slo-mo bomb threats and a comedic emergency tracheotomy scene (!) to air out the puzzles.
While the idea of taking Nancy out of her element to play the anachronistic rub sunk lesser titles such as the "Scooby-Doo" films, Fleming is careful not to pound Nancy's OCDish nerdom into the ground. In fact, the film becomes something of a celebration of Nancy's intellect and desire to help, which, in turn, inspires others to act. There's always room for a good piece of text-messaging comedy, putting Nancy in contact with L.A.'s sarcastic teenagers, but a majority of the film is in awe of Nancy's dynamic sleuthing skills and her confidence. It's a wonderful change of pace for tween cinema.
While I don't see her taking up Shakespeare any time soon, Emma Roberts has the perfect moxie for Nancy, embracing her pure heart and the guilty pleasure of sleuthing. Her crime-busting ways almost read as an addiction in this "Drew." Fleming doesn't tax Roberts much beyond the basic emotions, but the young actress has an unflappable charm that finds balance with the buoyant material and her take on Drew is surprisingly satisfying and humorous.
The new "Drew" might not sync up with the more serious takes on the character that have passed before, but pleasing today's generation is a tricky thing. The production has found a happy medium playing to current attention spans while still threading in enough of Nancy's old spunk to keep the franchise healthy for another spirited incarnation.
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