NANCY DREW: 2 ½ STARS
The opening scene of Nancy Drew: Mystery in the Hollywood Hills answers many questions.
Firstly: Is it possible for a relative of a movie superstar to make a credible debut in a summer movie? (Yes! Emma Roberts, daughter of Eric, niece of Julia has the right balance of all-American girl and chutzpah needed to bring the beloved literary character Nancy Drew to life.Like her famous aunt, she’s all eyes, teeth and lips, but the perpetual look of astonishment on her face serves her well here. I don’t know if she can do anything else, but she pulls this off.)
Secondly: What’s in Nancy Drew’s Slueth Bag? (Everything you need to solve crimes. It’s so well equipped McGuyver would turn green with envy.)
Thirdly: Whatever happened to Chris Kattan? (His regular spot on Saturday Night Live now a dim memory, apparently he now passes the time making cameo appearances in kid’s movies.)
In the updated Nancy Drew the girl detective and her father leave their comfortable home in River Heights, where Nancy has a reputation for landing the bad guys when the police can’t, and move to big, bad Los Angeles. When a 911 operator laughs at her for calling in the robbery of her moccasins and notebook Nancy discovers that LA isn’t nearly as friendly as her hometown.
Father and daughter move into a house that looks like Gloria Swanson’s mansion from Sunset Boulevard, where, years before its former owner, movie star Dehlia Draycott, died mysteriously. The case was never solved, but that may change when super sleuth Nancy Drew moves in upstairs.
Nancy, despite promising her father that she’ll hang up her sleuthing bag, figures if she has to move to a new town she may as well have something to keep her mind and sleuthing skills nimble. As she slowly uncovers the sordid details of the case it becomes apparent that there is an evil force who would rather have the case stay just as it is—unsolved.
It’s basically the plot of many of the books, so there’s nothing new there, but the filmmakers have added in some tame action scenes and a chaste love interest to spice things up. It’s solid tween entertainment, although to really grab the 8-12 year-olds the pace should have been picked up a bit. The story may have been updated to include cell phones and designer clothes, but the pacing is pure old-school Nancy Drew.
The new Nancy Drew is amiably good-natured with enough going on to keep the tweens happy, but might not be action oriented enough for older teens and will certainly seem stiff to adults.