Roberts is never lampooning someone who is a goody-goody and doesn't quite fit in. She merely exists as Nancy Drew, never making exceptions or excuses.
Too many movies aimed at children are forced to dumb down plot and character for the target audience to understand the story and relationships. Animated films, while fun, offer very little in terms of edification and most Disney movies or Disney-like movies are too sappy and implausible to capture any child's attention. Luckily, Nancy Drew, based on the popular series of books by Tiffany Paulsen, does none of that and treats the children as adults, never talking down to them or insulting the intelligence they do actually possess.
In the movie, Nancy (Emma Roberts) is up to her normal sleuthing antics when her father (Tate Donovan) is called to Los Angeles for a short notice business trip. Mr. Drew lets Nancy choose the house they will rent, and, ever the curious detective in the making, Nancy chooses the home of the late Hollywood starlet Dehlia Draycott (Laura Harring) who died a mysterious death years ago. Immediately, things become creepy and Nancy enlists her new friend/admirer Corky (Josh Flitter) to help her solve the mystery.
The script reads just like a Nancy Drew mystery; very little time is wasted before strange things start happening and Nancy is convinced she can solve the case. Nancy herself is of a different time period (to which her clothes, demeanor and sense of etiquette all testify), so watching her attempt to connect clues from a time where she would have fit in perfectly creates a sense of irony that is obvious enough for the young audience to understand, but is never treated as a cheap routine.
Essentially a newcomer, Roberts steals the show as Nancy. She is a girl clearly out of her element in trendy, contemporary L.A., but Roberts is never lampooning someone who is a goody-goody and doesn't quite fit in. She merely exists as Nancy Drew, never making exceptions or excuses.
Paulsen and co-writer and director Andrew Fleming have crafted a movie that is a solid yet simple murder mystery that forces children to connect the dots themselves and refuses to hold their hand through every scene. The evidence Nancy uncovers is presented in the same manner and with the same timing as any movie an adult would watch. Again, the mechanics are not slowed down or blatantly exposed in order for them to be understood.
Fans of the Nancy Drew series will love the perfect adaptation of this intelligent and passionate young girl's adventures. Nancy Drew drops the main character into a time and location where she doesn't really fit in, but is still able to realistically pull off her style, appearance, and determination to follow the rules. | Matthew F. Newlin