Monday, November 05, 2007


RUNTIME: 99 min.

Nancy Drew! The very name engulfs me with childhood fantasies. Of course, those fantasies were shared by very-much-real Gabriela Sabatini too. Although I have read only a handful of her adventures; the Hardy Boys almost always taking precedence, but the very idea of a teenage female sleuth was simply irresistible. Hindsight has provided me with both age and wisdom, and those do not necessarily hold the adventures in high esteem. Frankly, they seem to be buried somewhere, too trivial to recollect, but I still cherish those times.
The film though, directed by Andrew Fleming whose last two feature films Dick and The Craft have dealt primarily with teenage female characters, and written by him and Tiffany Paulsen seem to hold the idea of a teenage female sleuth as an absurdity. And the absurdity, in their opinion, is not only with respect to the theme but to the time as well. The Nancy Drew series, which according to Wikipedia started in the 1930s, and is set in the fictional town of River Heights is supposed to be an absurd little place warped in time. So what do the filmmakers conjure up from their bag of tricks? A self-mocking tale that plucks the dear of so many through the better part of 70 years and places her in present-day Los Angeles, or more precisely, Hollywood. And that is pretty much that. Oh yeah, one more thing. They seem to have their head pretty much warped to with all the high school mean girls stuff. So, just in case you are wondering that you’re in for an engaging little mystery film, you just might be in for a minor disappointment. And this is only for Drew readers. The hard-core fans though will lap it up in any case; only the ones referred to as the occasional ones and the ones referred to as the non-readers will find the going tough out there. Not that the film is terrible; but it is just that it neither is good to have a ball nor is it bad to slam your head. It just meanders somewhere between that corridor where every attempt at humor is welcomed with a shake of the head and a small but significant scream in the head – “There is my ten bucks floating”. Oh, of course, if you’re between 8-11 years of age or are hell bent on earning the full worth of your admission price by laughing at everything coming your way, then there’s plenty of laughs. Still, I’m not sure though.
The film starts off by mocking the adventures of Drew (Emma Roberts) by means of a poor-excuse-for-a-funny-sequence where she helps the River Heights police nab two reputed thieves. For the sake of safety, dad Carson Drew (Tate Donovan) asks her word not to ever get into sleuthing. And they move into modern day Los Angeles, making room for a hoping-to-be-classic fish out of water situation where Drew sniffs another mystery – the death of actress Dehlia Draycott (Laura Harring) – who happens to be a former resident of her new house in the city. What we need to endure for the rest of the film is a wafer-thin plot stretched beyond its limits, interspersed with dumb high-school fashion jokes. No prizes for guessing that our Drew always manages to come out on top.
Emma Roberts, niece of Julia Roberts, is sweet to the point of being saccharine. She does turn in a rather good performance, and that is pretty much that. The supporting cast all do their bit to rise above furniture levels, and sometimes manage to just rise above. They of course do manage to annoy you occasionally, but that is the film. I expected that once the opening sequence ended; this is just shoddy filmmaking.
I never get the fixation some of modern filmmakers have for mocking their source material – as if it is cool to be self-aware. On one end we have brilliant adaptations slavishly faithful and serious to their sources in Batman Begins, Sin City, V For Vendetta, 300 and on the other we’ve films as these that think that having a self mocking tone might absolve you of all folly. I agree Drew isn’t exactly Clarice Starling but who the hell expected that. The target audience is one who loves the character, and for their sake alone, come up with something that is remotely adventurous, to the least. I’ve no idea why the ‘mean girls’ are in the film; all the jokes fall flat. The final sequence is absurd to the point of being retarded where the mean girls are discussing fashion and a criminal is being apprehended right in front of them. I’m not against self-awareness but at least believe in your source. This turns out to be nothing – a harmless, meaningless, pointless, craft-less fluff. I dread how Chronicles of Narnia would turn out in their hands with all the self mocking.

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