I'm a guy. A straight guy. Growing up, I liked to read "The Hardy Boys," and not just the newer, techno-friendly ones. I read every single old "Hardy Boys" ever written, and then some. But, as a straight guy, I have to admit that my favorite books were the "Hardy Boy/Nancy Drew Super Mysteries," in which the legendary amateur detectives teamed up. As such, I am just a little partial to Nancy Drew, even if she was the detective for "the girls."
Last summer, Warner Brothers brought Nancy Drew to the big screen, in the shockingly titled Nancy Drew. The movie, rated PG, starred 16-year old Emma Roberts as the super smart heroine, and, to many people's surprise, sort of flopped. Poor marketing might have been the case, but in reality director and co-writer Andrew Fleming got caught in a trap that this movie, in hindsight, was almost asking to get caught in. Nancy Drew has been around since 1930, and while new books continue to be published to this day, as far as I know, she isn't a mainstay for modern pre-teen girls. And yet, the movie is made for pre-teen girls, or at least younger teenage girls. Herein lies the problem.
Nancy Drew is a crime fighter. She often gets involved in dangerous situations, and the mysteries are generally somewhat serious. In the books, she's generally depicted as being aged 16 to 18. When you make a movie that is made for younger teens, especially younger female teens, you are immediately going to turn off most other audiences. That is what happened, and yet was completely avoidable. Had Fleming made this film for older teens, he still could have kept it within its PG rating, maintained the appeal to younger kids and made a film a little more in line with general audience preferences.
As is, the Nancy Drew movie is decent. It has a rather harmless little plot with a harmless little screenplay. There are some entertaining moments, but none that really pop. The mystery is dull at best, and seems more like a vehicle to get Nancy from one situation to the next rather than to engage the audience and get them guessing as well. Roberts does a pretty good job with what she's been given, but when you're instructed to look and act like a girl, not like a young woman, you're not going to get to show off. Her performance is cute and the movie is cute, but ultimately forgettable.
Instead, it would have been wise to take Nancy Drew the Disturbia route. Maybe keep it PG-rated, or maybe move it up PG-13, but have Nancy get involved in a serious mystery with serious consequences. There can still be goofy moments and lighthearted subplots, but build them around the central plot, not the other way around. Make Nancy a headstrong and mature sleuth, not a prissy princess who doesn't understand why she isn't more popular at school.
Alas, I'm not in a position to make these recommendations, and considering this review is a year too late anyway, we get what we get. Younger teenaged girls should find some entertainment value here, but there's nothing special about this film. Hopefully in a few more years Warner Brothers will attempt to do Nancy Drew again, as I believe it is a viable and lucrative franchise if done right.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.
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