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Nancy Drew Review

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Junior sleuth Nancy Drew (Roberts) moves to LA with her lawyer father (Donovan) and promises to be a normal teenager. However, when they rent the mansion of a film star whose mysterious death remains unsolved after 25 years, Nancy can’t resist.

★★★★★

Given the scandalous lack of adventure heroines for girls, it’s
no surprise that Nancy Drew has been successful in books, films and TV since 1930. Director Andrew Fleming has a knack for offbeat teenage girl projects (witchcraft thriller The Craft and weird Watergate comedy Dick) and clearly feels a sense of duty to the character, but there’s too much fluff in this amiable runaround.

With her penny loafers, classic clothes and trim little roadster, the ever-bright and resourceful Nancy is as freakish in Hollywood High as the sitcom holdouts in the Brady Bunch movies - though, in a few years’ time (as even this script has to admit), she’ll still look smart while the fashionable girls, who dress like extra-trashy porn stars, will seem even more ridiculous. Nancy updates her methods to include research on the internet and digitally recorded confessions, but still explores secret passages, finds a missing will and gets kidnapped by thugs bound by certification issues not to give her too hard a time.

Murdered starlet and object of Nancy’s sleuthing Dehlia Draycott (Laura Harring) seems to have made a black-and-white Western in 1981 (no wonder her career went south) and comes on like Ava Gardner, though she’d have been a star in the era of Sissy Spacek and Ali McGraw. During an investigation which involves footage-eating exercises like an opening-all-the-boxes-in-an-antique-shop montage, Nancy uncovers Dehlia’s unacknowledged daughter (Rachael Leigh Cook, already stuck with bit-parts in the cruel, cruel Hollywood of 2007). Sadly, this mystery wouldn’t puzzle the Scooby gang: there’s only one red herring and one real suspect.

Too much time is given to overly familiar teen hi-jinks - Nancy being made fun of in school but winning round her mild persecutors; comedy jealousy between regular sidekick Ned (Max Thieriot) and roly-poly junior suitor (Josh Flitter, highly annoying); one of the tamest wild parties on record (the bad boys tear down the paper streamers!); and the usual shopping-and-smiling business. But it’s almost worth a look to marvel at the surprisingly starry (if completely superfluous) cameos when Nancy visits a film set halfway through.

That this is just about passable as a divorced parent’s weekend treat is down to Roberts’ charm and the timeless appeal of Nancy herself.