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Nancy Drew (2007)
Warner Home Video
DVD Released: 3/11/2008
All Ratings out of
Review by Mike Long, Posted on 3/4/2008
There has been a lot of debate and even more grumbling about Hollywood's love of remakes. I'm in the middle on this one. I don't understand why anyone would want to remake a classic, but if there is a flawed film which can be remade, and improved upon, then have at it. However, some confuse a remake of a specific film with the updating of a specific character. I have no problem with a younger generation being introduced to an older, beloved character. And hence we have Nancy Drew, a modern take on the girl detective.
Nancy Drew (Emma Roberts) lives in the small town of River Heights with her father, Carson Drew (Tate Donovan), who is an attorney. Nancy is a polite and intelligent girl who loves to "sleuth". Her detective work has made her a local celebrity and a favorite of the police chief, but it also often gets her into trouble. Carson takes a job in Los Angeles, and Nancy goes with him. Carson makes Nancy promise that there will be no sleuthing on their trip. Nancy agrees, although she has already taken the liberty of renting an old mansion which houses a famous mystery. The house once belonged to actress Dehlia Draycott (Laura Elena Harring) who, at the height of her career, disappeared. When she returned to Hollywood, she threw a huge party at the house and was later found dead in the pool. No one has been able to solve the crime. While fighting the urge to sleuth, Nancy attempts to fit into the California lifestyle. She is shunned at school because of her preppy fashion-sense, but she soon makes friends with Corky (Josh Flitter), an odd young man who clearly has a crush on Nancy. In spite of herself, Nancy begins to uncover clues about Draycott's life and soon begins to piece together the puzzle. But, along with the answers come anonymous threats, leading Nancy to think that she's on the verge of something big.
When Nancy Drew opened in June 2007, it didn't exactly rule the box-office (I can only assume that the film was seen as counter-programming for girls as it opened againstFantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer, which brought in nearly 10 times as much as Nancy Drew.) When you think about it, it's not exactly surprising that the movie didn't take off. Nancy Drew, and her contemporaries The Hardy Boys, was introduced in a time when escape and adventure were rarities for adolescents. Today however, with TV, DVDs, and video games, youngsters have plenty of outlets for adventure, and may not find the Nancy Drew character as appealing. This modern mindset shouldn't necessarily reflect on the film, which should be judged on its own terms.
At first glance, Nancy Drew seems like a fairly normal movie for tween girls. It features a teenaged girl as the main character, and, sleuthing aside, she does what teenaged girls like to do. She likes a boy named Ned (Max Thieriot), but isn't sure how to tell him. She drives a vintage convertible, and is very meticulous with her appearance. Actually, Nancy is an excellent role model for young girls, as she's very smart, polite, courteous, generous, and self-confident without being cocky. She dresses in a way which is modestly stylish without being slutty or sexy. Most importantly, she believes in being herself. Actually, the only knock against Nancy's behavior is that she disobeys her father, but she shows remorse for this.
But, Nancy Drew the movie is nowhere near as organized at Nancy herself, as the story flounders all over the place. The film can never seem to decide what it's tone is going to be or which direction it wants to take. There are hints that something supernatural is happening in the Draycott house, but there isn't. The movie can't seem to decide how violent to be or how much danger Nancy should be in, so it fluctuates from menacing phone calls to bombs, but there is never any level of suspense. Director/co-writer Andrew Fleming began his career with the horror films Bad Dreams and The Craft, and then made adult comedies Threesome and The In-Laws, so perhaps he wasn't prepared to make a movie for kids.
And given that target audience, I probably shouldn't be too hard on the script, but if you can't see the resolution of the mystery coming from a mile away...well then you may be a 10 year old. Otherwise, you'll know everything but "who done it" in the first act, and you'll finger the suspect long before the finale. The lazy mystery is accompanied by a series of scenes where characters talk to one another, but never seem to bond. I never felt that I had any kind of grasp on how Nancy felt about any other character in the film.
(POTENTIAL SPOILER ALERT: Keeping with the theme of the uneven tone of the film, I felt that I must talk about some of the subject matter in the movie. Again, this film is ostensibly aimed at young girls -- certainly no one out of their teens, and yet, the story deals with unwed mothers and giving birth out of wedlock. Now, I'm no prude, but I think that the writers could have created a story which didn't include such touchy subjects. We don't need a fluff movie like this bringing up topics that children may not be ready to comprehend. END SPOILER ALERT)
So, Nancy Drew is a mystery. The idea of modernizing such a beloved character is a great one, and there's nothing wrong with having a film which features such a great female character. However, the film itself is sloppy and the mystery will only baffle those who aren't actually watching the film. Emma Roberts is asked to carry the movie, and while she does have screen presence, there are certainly moments where her acting is not believable. In the end, the best part of Nancy Drew is the costume design. If that statement intrigues you, then this is the movie for you. If not, get a clue and make this one a rental only.
Nancy Drew searches for clues on DVD courtesy of Warner Home Video. The DVD contains both the widescreen and full-frame versions of the film. For the purposes of this review, only the widescreen version was viewed. The film has been letterboxed at 2.35:1 and the transfer is enhanced for 16 x 9 TVs. Given that this is a very recent theatrical release from a major home video company, the transfer is surprisingly bad. The image shows a noticeable amount of artifacting and some mild pixellation. The actor's faces show very little detail and haloes and shimmering lines can be seen around their faces. The image is somewhat flat and backgrounds seem unnaturally blurry. On the positive side, the image shows no distracting grain and the colors look good. Still, this image here looks like some of the preview discs that I get. The DVD has a Dolby Digital 5. 1 audio track which provides clear dialogue and sound effects. The in-movie music sounds fine, which is good, as the movie is full of musical montages. There are some minor stereo and surround effects here, but sounds such as the big explosion in the film, produce minimal subwoofer response.
The Nancy Drew DVD offers clues to a series of bonus features. "Nancy Drew: Kids at Work" (9 minutes) is a featurette which examines several facets of the production. We see Emma Roberts on-set, get a look at the costumes, and hear comments from Director Andrew Fleming. The actors comments on the work environment and the stuntwork. There are also a series of "Mini Featurettes" which run about 10 minutes, and feel as if they were most likely part of a website at one time. They are "Our iPod Idolatry" (where the actors reveal what is on their iPods), "Nancy Drew's Detective Kit" (which has Roberts showing off the sleuthing kit), "Behind the Scene" (sic) (which is simply on-set footage), "Day on the Set" (shows Emma Roberts in hair and makeup), and "Emma's Last Day" (which shows Roberts doing her last shot). The DVD contains a 2-minute GAG REEL and a MUSIC VIDEO for the song "Pretty Much Amazing" by Joanna.
Review Copyright 2008 by Mike Long