Nancy Drew (2007): A Proper Review

A few days ago, I had the (dis)pleasure of watching the most recent Nancy Drew movie starring the “Unfabulous” Emma Roberts. My initial thoughts and feelings of the movie as based on the trailer, which you may read here, remain basically unchanged upon watching the movie.

Before I say anything else, let me just say that my opinions here are not influenced by research, save for the one I did before on the real age of Nancy Drew as based in the prior blog entry linked to above, about the movie and what the producers, writers, and director did to retain whatever detail they could from the series of juvenile books upon which the movie is based, nor were they influenced by the opinions of other purists and reviewers. My opinions are mostly grievances about the glaring discrepancies between the movie and the books and that which were formed during and after watching the movie.

The movie begins with a display of Nancy Drew’s wit, quick-thinking, and admirable athleticism through the “hostage” situation at a church in their small River Heights town. Nancy, as portrayed by young star Emma Roberts, is turned into an amateur shrink as she slyly convinces the two criminals to give themselves up with her sheer convincing power and the power of her housekeeper Hannah Gruen’s famed lemon bar. As the three move to leave the church, the two criminals suddenly have a change of heart and decide not to surrender. Nancy, clever as she is, suspects this and begins her escape by climbing up the balcony using one of her gadgets and escaping through the roof, from which she descends using another one of her gadgets. The police chief is all praises, the two criminals are taken away, and Nancy and friends get their picture taken.

This initial situation is, in itself, already a betrayal of the character of Nancy Drew and of everything written in the series. I shall not mention the other instances of this betrayal for there are many. We see so much more of these in the rest of the movie that it makes you wonder if this truly were a movie with Nancy Drew or just another girl who wants to be Nancy Drew.

In this first scene, we are introduced to Nancy as everything I mentioned above. Now, how is this a betrayal of her character if Nancy is presented in the same light as was done in the books? My complaint starts with the actress. Emma’s Nancy comes off–in that first scene alone–as a bit genteel but decidedly perky and unafraid of anything. From what I gather from the books, Nancy is indeed a cool and calm and collected lady in the face of her captors, yet deep inside is also fearful for her own life. I also do not remember her to be perky; instead, i remember her to be more reflective especially when her cases are involved. To be sure, she is easygoing in front of her friends, but I don’t believe her to be as bubblegum perky as the pop stars of today.

Another complaint: I find it offensive that the criminals in the movie are stupid, especially in this first scene. They do not succumb to the charms of one young girl who may be easily disposable to the truly despicable with the help of one measly lemon bar (no matter how delicious it may reputedly be). Those two criminals are the type of bumbling idiots known to populate Disney movies and who may easily be disarmed by a sharp kick to the loins. No. The criminals of the Nancy Drew book series are not that stupid.

Nor are the other minor characters, but that desk clerk was as stupid as he was insipid. Again, to be bribed by a young girl to reveal important documents with a lemon bar… I leave the thought for you to finish. As for the other characters – Ned, Inga and that other girl, that little boy who keeps trailing Nancy, even Carson Drew – they all seem… clueless.  Ned, unable to speak his heart out to Nancy and looking–although adorably–dorky?  And where are Nancy’s best friends, Bess and George?  A Nancy Drew story is incomplete without either one of her best friends!
Carson Drew. Even I admit that he is truly a busy man, and because of this, his daughter Nancy is allowed much independence. It’s hard to describe Carson in this movie.  On one hand, the fatherly concern for his daughter is there, yet, again, the movie Carson does not coincide with the series Carson.  How can Carson, who understands his daughter’s love and knack for sleuthing, forbid his daughter to stop it? Unthinkable!

The movie has taken the name of Nancy Drew and wove a completely different universe from the one that I had grown up with.

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I suppose you could say I expect too much from this movie, and you know what?  I agree.  I grew up on Nancy Drew books at a time when Sweet Valley, Love Stories and Sweet Dreams juvenile books were all the rage.  I was much younger than Nancy Drew’s 18 years when I followed her adventures, and, as such, was an avid fan.  My personal understanding of who this character was is that she is a strong, courageous, outspoken, persistent, caring and mature person who is as beautiful as she is intelligent.  And from the number of cases she has solved, that says a lot about her intelligence (and beauty, mind you).

The one thing I mentioned that this movie got: persistent.  I suppose that’s a given already.
Ah well. In any case, I stand by what I said that I didn’t like the way this movie represented Nancy Drew.  I resent the fact that she was portrayed as a bubblegum pop perky teener who wears Penny loafers all the time and blabbers in front of Ned. No. I am disappointed.  This is not the same Nancy Drew who, even as a teenager, embodied class, breeding, spunk, intelligence and beauty even in the face of danger.

Kudos to Ms. Emma Roberts, though, for giving it a shot.

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//edit. i noticed the “tone” of my writing changed towards the end. took me about two days to write this. on the first day, i had just finished reading Pride and Prejudice, hence the high-falutin language. now, the PBB celebrity2 big winner had just been announced. hm. i’ll fix this some other time. goooooood night.

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