Warning! This site contains satire, cynical adult humor, celebrity gossip, and an occasional peanut by-product or two!

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Nancy Drew

My brother Rodney is so cheap he used to take his kids to the office and sit them in front of the Xerox machine and tell them that this experience was called “going to the movies.” The sad thing is that it worked until the middle son turned twelve, which really doesn’t say much for my oldest nephew’s smarts, but that is a whole other story. The point is these kids were gullible. My niece, Naomi, for example, loved to read all of the Nancy Drew novels she found that I had stashed in my basement years ago, so it only made sense that when the new movie version of Nancy Drew opened at the Essex Cinemas she would want to go. Is this such a big request for a thirteen year old girl to make of her father? Granted, he is a single father, and I can’t help but think that the kids got a lot of their smarts (or lack of ‘em) from their mother since she was the one who had insisted on going swimming in the ocean that memorable 4th of July, wearing her “Lucky Ham” around her neck… Well, never mind.

Rodney is so cheap he tried to weasel his way out of taking his own sweet child to the movies by telling her that she wouldn’t like
Nancy Drew if she realized the truth ~ that Nancy Drew grew up to be that shrill and shrewish commentator Nancy Grace on Court TV. To make his point, he told Naomi that if she could sit through all two hours of any episode of “Nancy Grace: Closing Arguments” without looking away, then he would take her to the movie. Now, really. Even Helen Keller couldn’t stomach a task that strenuous. Being exposed to Nancy Grace is like listening to amplified fingernails going down a chalkboard while you watch video of surly Sumo wrestlers beating kittens to death with baseball bats. It can’t be done, at least not by the sane.

This meant it was up to me to take my adorable niece to the Essex Cinemas to see Nancy Drew while Child Protective Services investigated this obvious case of child endangerment, which should be standard in any home with both minors AND Court TV, if you ask me, which you didn’t, but still, I’m just saying.

This cinematic version of
Nancy Drew is an odd hybrid. It’s not a horrible film, but it doesn’t feel like the “real” Nancy Drew either, which is no reflection on actress Emma Roberts (Aquamarine), who stars in the title role. She does a terrific job with the material she’s got to work with, proving that she has the same natural genetic predisposition to acting as her father (Eric Roberts of tv’s “Heroes”) and her aunt (Julia Roberts; Charlotte’s Web). Fortunately for her, she has been blessed with the perfect combination of genes to have gifted her with looks that uncannily resemble a youthful Julia rather than Eric, which has got to be a help in the career department. Emma, only 16, plays Nancy with confidence and the self-assuredness one expects Nancy to come from.

The movie opens with Nancy witnessing a robbery, and then seconds later the scene winds down with her saving the day and seeing justice done. The pay-off is in the second five minutes, when what seems like the entire town of River Heights turns out in the streets to say nice things about her. With all this love in a picturesque 1950s haven just over the hill from Pleasantville, it hardly makes sense then that either Nancy or her father, Carson (the very underused Tate Donovan; Shooter) would want or
need to relocate to California, but leave it to screenwriters Andrew Fleming (The In-Laws), who also directed, and Tiffany Paulsen, who had no previous professional writing experience, but did once play the pivotal role of Suzi Donaldson in
Friday the 13th Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan (which must surely count for something) to send the pair to Los Angeles so that Nancy could be tormented by be-yotch grrrrls from Hollywood High, which is what happens next. It smells a little like a desperate attempt to leach some laughs out of Mean Girls, but it has nothing to do with a mystery except why can’t we just go back to River Heights and find out who stole the Indian head penny from the display in the bank’s front window or something like that.

Nancy is a bit of a dork. Why she insists on wearing her grandmother’s clothes is anybody’s guess, but if anyone can pull off the sweater-over-the-shoulders and
cameo choker look, Emma Roberts can. The question is: Do grandmothers of today’s sixteen year olds wear stuff like that? Actually, I think it was more like the grandmothers of the mothers of sixteen year olds of today, but why pick? There’s so much other stuff going wrong in this “Twilight Zone” of adolescent angst, not the least of which is the fact that we are told repeatedly about that bygone era of the 1970s as if it was when dinosaurs ruled the earth. The movie clips shown of the actress central to the big mystery are all in black-and-white and she is always dressed in period, i.e. “Flapper” or “turn-of-the-20th century” drag, which don’t help those of us who lived through the 1970s. To hear “Nancy” talk about it, you’d think we should all be dust in the wind by now. I’m glad I had a gi-normous Diet Pepsi on hand to keep hydrating before I dried up and blew away.

Nancy seems to have a way too adult relationship going on with her father for most grown-ups to
be comfortable with since she seems to handle all of his financial arrangements without his supervision. She leased the mansion in Los Angeles where they were destined to stay with no input from Carson. Of course, Nancy has a reason for renting the place that she selected ~ a mystery! The last owner of the house, movie star Dehlia Draycott (Laura Harring; Inland Empire) drowned in the pool back in 1981. Was it murder? That’s a question that has haunted Hollywood for 26 years, and one that Nancy plans to solve. Well, you know she will. The plot then revolves around the back story to what happened, and that is where parents may get a little nervous.

I don’t want to spoil the mystery for those planning to see the movie, but let’s just say that while the word “abortion” is never spoken in the film there are certain parallels to this summer’s more adult hit Knocked Up involved than you may care for your ten or twelve year old to be seeing without you along or without your knowledge. I was actually really surprised at the over-all “mystery”, which was definitely not adapted from one of the books by Carolyn Keene.

For purists like myself, Nancy’s beau Ned Nickerson (Max Thieriot; The Astronaut Farmer) does make a visit to California, driving her blue roadster out as a surprise, which was nice. Unfortunately, her best friends from the books, Bess and George, are hardly seen and instead she is stuck with a toady sidekick named Corky (Josh Flitter;
Big Momma's House 2). I guess he is there for comic relief, and he is funny in small doses. Thank goodness the movie is only 99 minutes long. In the real world, I’d punt the little tub over a balcony within the first couple of hours if he wouldn’t go home. He’s way too clingy.

So, what do we wind up with at the end of the day?
Nancy Drew is a concoction of something plus something else plus adorable Emma Roberts, but it isn’t really the Nancy Drew of old. It’s also not Nancy Grace, in case anyone was worried. It is more “Veronica Mars” than anything close to the source material, not that there is anything wrong with that. My niece liked it, and the twenty or so tweens in the audience when we were there seemed transfixed. There wasn’t the flash of a cell phone opening to text message anyone through the entire film and that must have meant it held their attention to the very end. Anything that can do that to a room full of thirteen year olds can’t be all bad.

No comments: