Distributor: Warner Bros.
Cast: Emma Roberts, Josh Flitter, Max Thieriot, Daniella Monet, Rachael Leigh Cook, Tate Donovan and Barry Bostwick
Director: Andrew Fleming
Screenwriters: Andrew Fleming and Tiffany Paulsen
Producer: Jerry Weintraub
Genre: Comedy thriller
we expected to be reporting that Nancy Drew, girl detective, has been brought back from a deep slumber yet again, as she was in the 1970s (about 40 years after her first appearance on film), and the 1990s, both on television. But a funny thing happened on the way to bringing the Nancy Drew franchise back to life – somebody forgot to give it any life.
This movie, well intentioned as can be, is so trapped in after school special mundanity that it’s hard to imagine Hollywood moving ahead with the planned 2009 sequel. Man, this movie is boring. And it hurts me to say this, as Emma Roberts is so darn likeable and the movie is loveably sweet and such a throwback, but… well, none of that changes the fact that this is one dull piece of filmmaking, built on a foundation of clichés and lacking any real substance beyond Nancy’s quirky retro style.
The real problem here is that the movie is really just one long – and not especially funny – joke. From the movie’s first moments, where we see Nancy coolly counselling two criminals into turning themselves in, it’s clear that this is all being played for laughs. There’s no real human being in the world like this young woman, and she’s really nice and all, but how many times in 99 minutes can we snicker about how just-so Nancy is, how obsessively tidy and organized, how well prepared for all eventualities? Not enough times to carry us through.
Nancy is a small-town girl, but the story – written by Tiffany paulsen and director Andrew Fleming – is mostly set in Los Angeles, where Nancy and her dad(Tate Donovan) have come for a few months due to his work commitments. There, Nancy has arranged for them to stay in a house once owned by a long-since deceased actress (Laura harming) in hopes that she’ll get the chance to solve the mystery of Dehlia Draycott’s death. And, of course, that’s what she spends most of the movie doing.
Unfortunately, solving this mystery just isn’t that interesting, and the filmmakers presumably intentional constant use of old TV movie clichés soon becomes tiresome. For example, predictable outcast-at-school scenes as Nancy takes her old fashioned small-town girl shtick to Hollywood High, coincidences such as her dad just happening to be working with the bad guy, and detective show contrivances such as the evil-doer blabbering a confession without realizing Nancy is recording it.
Making things worse – and this is surprising given that Fleming has made decent movies before (or at least one: Dick was great fun, even if The In-Laws was weak) – is the fact that there’s plenty of filmmaking sloppiness in evidence here. Especially grating are several sudden scene transitions that leave us with furrowed brow – for example, one moment Nancy is chatting withBruce Willis on a movie set with Bruce suggesting that she take over as director, and the next she’s walking down the street as if that odd event had never occurred.
Bland, unoriginal and plain boring, Roberts’ significant charm simply isn’t enough to carry this sorry attempt to resuscitate the girl detective who appeared in four movies in the late 1930s before those television revivals in the ‘70s and ‘90s. Clearly, the suits at Warner Brothers have decided that we’re going to get more of Nancy in the future; here’s hoping they get some fresh ideas and perhaps a new director for their next try.