If you are (or know) a girl between the ages of ten and fourteen, run out as quick as you can and see this movie. Seriously. This is the one all the kids will be talking about in homeroom (if you go to a year-round school, otherwise it’ll be the day-camp conversation of choice). The story, about girl detective Nancy Drew, brought to life by second generation starlet Emma Roberts, is easy to follow. Nancy’s dad, who doesn’t like her sleuthing, takes her along on a three month business trip to Los Angeles. Of course, Nancy, being a Drew (“Always put other people first” is her father’s mantra) makes sure they rent a house that comes complete with a mystery attached.
The mystery in this case is the disappearance of Dehlia Draycott, a famous movie star who once owned the house. She was at the pinnacle of success, vanished for five months, then returned, only to be found dead a short while later. For Nancy, this has all the earmarks of a prefect case. But then, for Nancy, everything from bandits robbing the church to a cat stuck in a tree is a perfect case. She’s obsessed with making the pieces fit. The only thing she can’t get to fit, at least at first, is herself. In her new, Hollywood school, Nancy stands out like a rose among the weeds. She’s perfect at everything she tries and, because of this, is despised by her classmates, who take every opportunity to mock and ridicule the newcomer. To her credit though, Nancy never backs down. She embraces who she is and what she’s about, even when it means disobeying her father.
And this is the positive that parents can take away from this film. No matter what, Nancy is going to show it’s hip to be square. She saves lives, captures bad guys and sets fashion trends, all by playing by the rules (in one scene she refuses to drive faster than the posted speed limit, even though the bad guys are getting away). But that’s about all parents can enjoy about it. Unlike other films aimed at children, this one doesn’t have any of the over-their-head jokes parents will enjoy but their children won’t understand. It may be because the film is never really sure what tone it wants to take. The violence, at times, is a little too heavy for a PG rated film. In order to add a bit of gravitas to the fluff, there are moments of real threat to Drew and her cohorts and yet, there are other moments that can only appeal to a group of kids who probably weren’t born when the last Nancy Drew novel came out.
For kids, though, especially girls, this film hits all the right notes. There’s romance (gushy, not ewwww), danger, thrills, and a roll model who gets it all done without messing up her hair. Emma Roberts is delightful as the girl detective. She is fresh and open, without the cynicism often found in other actresses her age. She is supported by a top notch cast, from Barry Bostwick and Tate Donovan to Rachael Leigh Cook and Laura Elena Harring. They all have the experience necessary to give their young lead the room she needs to give her best performance. Of course, after seeing it in the theatres and waiting for the DVD to come out, there are still books, all in print and all offering more adventures to see you through.
I gave this film a 5.5 for adults and a 9 for children – different ratings for each.
(Originally published at FirstShowing.net)