|Nancy Drew (2007)
Emma Roberts, Josh Flitter, Max Thieriot, Tate Donovan, Rachael
Leigh Cook, Barry Bostwick
Director: Andrew Fleming
Pointing out the flaws in a movie like “Nancy Drew” is akin to scolding your four-year-old daughter for coloring outside the lines. No matter how right you may be about the movie’s flaws – and it is flawed – you feel guilty for bringing them up, as if your wife will step in any minute and say, That’s the best she can do, you soulless bastard. The problem is that a four-year-old girl didn’t make this movie. A group of professional filmmakers did, and they should know better, even if their target audience doesn’t.
Emma Roberts is the title character, a squeaky-clean and whip-smart sleuth from River Heights (the location of which is defined by nothing more than the fact that it’s not Los Angeles and they don’t have an airport) that relocates to Los Angeles for a couple months with her father Carson (Tate Donovan). Carson, concerned for her safety, makes Nancy promise that she won’t do any sleuthing while they’re in L.A., but little does he know that she picked the house they’re renting because it was once the home of a movie star that died under mysterious circumstances. She tries to obey her father’s request, but the mystery is too tough to resist, especially when her attempts to be a normal teenager blow up in her face and accidentally win her the affections of chunky smart aleck Corky (Josh Flitter).
In the defense of the filmmakers, their quandary is readily apparent. They’re trying to make something contemporary but innocent, but most people that begin with such idealistic goals end up with either contemporary and cynical or innocent and naive. “Nancy Drew” falls into the latter group, and it has less to do with the mystery – though the mystery itself is painfully obvious – than it does in the ways that they fill in the gaps around the mystery. Setups are abandoned whenever the plot demands it (they walk out on a waitress at a Chinese restaurant for no real reason). Corky is a throwback to that ‘80s standby, The Precocious Teen (or Lovable Fat Kid, take your pick), and every laugh he coaxes from the audience should come with a rim shot. Oh, and had this been real life, Nancy totally would have ended up in a wood chipper. But I suppose they’d lose their PG rating if they shot that scene, so what are you gonna do.
I will say this about the casting of Emma Roberts as Nancy Drew: she’s perfect. The girl is cute as a button – we were supposed to laugh at the dress she wore to her birthday party, but I thought she looked adorable – and she never forgets that Nancy is all about her P’s and Q’s. Donovan is likable enough to make his workaholic father likable too. Everyone else, however, is a stock character. Along with the Precocious Teen, we have two Mean Girls, the Spooky Caretaker (Marshall Bell), the Boy From Home With Non-Threatening Good Looks (Max Theiriot), and a gaggle of Hired Goons. The most surprising thing about “Nancy Drew,” one could argue, is its soundtrack. Instead of a bunch of Ashlee and Lindsay clones, we have Spoon, Matthew Sweet, Gorillaz, and covers of songs by Kim Wilde, Robert Palmer and New Order. I’m guessing that’s the work of director Andrew Fleming, whose earlier movies (“Threesome” and “The Craft”) also boast hip soundtracks.
When the lights went down before “Nancy Drew” began, the girls in the audience (which represented about 90% of the total audience) screamed like they were watching the Beatles on “Ed Sullivan,” and applauded heartily when it ended. No, this wasn’t mystery on an Agatha Christie level, but that’s not what the little girls want, either. This is bad news for any adult that is chaperoning said little girls, since this movie will not challenge them on any level. But with any luck, they will at least enjoy the music.