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.
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.
Reviewed by Kim Newman