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Nancy Drew: Drew's Clues

Warner Bros. // PG // March 11, 2008
List Price: $3.99 [Buy now and save at Amazon]

Review by David Cornelius | posted March 21, 2008 | E-mail the Author
To accompany the release of "Nancy Drew" on DVD and cable, Warner Bros. is releasing a special edition of the film they're calling "Nancy Drew: Drew's Clues." This version contains pop-up trivia facts that appear on screen as the movie plays.

Before we get to that, let's get to the movie itself. I originally reviewed "Nancy Drew" upon its theatrical release last summer; here's are some excerpts from that article:

"I like old fashioned things," says the title character in "Nancy Drew," the big screen revival of the iconic girl detective. And with those five words, the filmmakers get it all right. There's something inherently old school about the character, and while the world around her is up to date, Nancy herself remains the same, cruising from crime to crime in her trusty Roadster, homemade plaid outfits in her wardrobe and boyfriend Ned always in tow. She's a walking anachronism, and we love her for it.

The premise of this modern update tempts the same level of spoofery that struck the Brady Bunch in the mid-90s: Nancy leaves River Heights for an adventure in Los Angeles, and those modern teens are shocked by her retro style, encyclopedic knowledge, and gee-whiz good manners. But screenwriters Andrew Fleming (who also directed) and Tiffany Paulsen refuse to mock the super-sleuth; they may kid her at times, joking about her knack for trouble and the quaint innocence that surrounds her adventures, but they do so with a kind heart. Instead of a spoof, the filmmakers manage to bring Nancy Drew into the 21st century without forcing her to leave her very Nancy Drewness behind.

As a mystery, it's a bit slight, and the whole thing's riddled with plot holes and too-noticeable gaffes. But as a comic adventure, it's such great fun that the story flubs never seem to matter. The comedy zings and the action swings, if you'll pardon the rhyme; "Nancy Drew" is so adamant about being big fun that you get swept up in the lighthearted joy of it all. Like its hero, the film is cheerfully old fashioned - modern technology may help the girl detective out, but it's classic gumption that does all the legwork. The film's just swimming in gee-whiz charm, and its knack for great comic timing is a welcome surprise.

(To see what other DVD Talk staffers thought of the film - and other Nancy Drew releases - check out their reviews here.)

I assume that most of you reading this have already seen the film and are curious not about the movie but about the new "Drew's Clues" edition. (If you haven't seen the movie itself yet, I recommend you do so first. It's a cute film, fun for kids and grown-ups alike, but the pop-up trivia will likely distract.)

If you remember VH-1's "Pop-Up Video," then you'll know what to expect here - the pop-ups are in the same design, and share a similar "bubble" sound effect when they appear. For "Drew's Clues," there are several types of pop-ups, which I'll call:

Behind-the-Scenes: Learn when Nancy is Emma Roberts and when it's her stunt double, where scenes were shot, etc.

Personal Facts: Who's Emma's famous aunt? How does Bruce Willis know Emma?

Bloopers: Goofs that slipped through editing - you'll never watch the file clerk scene the same way again.

Playful Ribbing: Count Nancy's seemingly endless outfit changes! Laugh along as we count down to "awkward moments" in the movie!

Story Info: Clues found in the movie's mystery are highlighted.

And my favorite, Drew's Clues. These are a set of play-along questions that invite the viewer to scour the screen for hidden objects and such. (Example: can you find Nancy's magnifying glass in this scene?) Other questions ask the viewer about Nancy's character, or the story, or some behind-the-scenes goodness, and they all work to move this pop-up gimmick away from a passive trivia rundown and toward a more interactive experience. It's one thing to tell the viewer something; it's another to ask the viewer to get involved - and kids are likely to become very excited over these questions.

They're also likely to dig the rest of the pop-ups, some of which reward fans for having seen the movie before and being able to laugh at with while still loving it. Thankfully, the pop-ups are frequent enough to be constantly entertaining while not so frequent as to be constantly interrupting. It's still possible to enjoy the movie on its own while watching this version.

Curiously, Warner Bros. is not releasing "Drew's Clues" on DVD at this time. As a way to lure viewers to their pay-per-view offerings, "Drew's Clues" will only be available via on-demand cable and internet download. That's a bit of a downer, since this would have been a perfect bonus feature to include on the "Nancy Drew" DVD. What the studio is doing here, essentially, is asking fans to pay for a movie they've already seen (and, quite likely, already bought). This runs the risk of taking double dipping into the downloadable age, where it doesn't belong.

Most outlets are only offering "Drew's Clues" as a rental, either via one-time cable viewing or 24-hour download. Amazon Unbox and iTunes also offer a version you can keep permanently, for the price of a DVD.

The copy I received was a 1.33:1 pan & scan edition of the film, which seems to currently be the only format in which the "Drew's Clues" edition is available to consumers. That's a bit upsetting - don't fans deserve the original aspect ratio? (The image never seems cramped, but still. Grumble.) Video and audio are otherwise very good, assuming that your download service or cable provider will maintain the level of quality that was found on the copy sent in for review.

Considering the OAR and double-dip issues, fans of the movie will do fine to simply Rent It. It's a fun revisit of a new favorite, and definitely worth a few dollars spent during family night, but the extra cost required to keep this edition isn't quite worth it.
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