Phillip touched upon this topic earlier this week, but it warrants further discussion. I mean, seriously, what is wrong with Hollywood casting directors? It’s not bad enough that Eric Roberts has 157 goddamn casting credits to his name (who? who, I say, would willingly put him in a movie? Does he have some sort of Ghost Rider pact with Satan, in which he’s tasked with setting our heads aflame?), but that motherfucker actually had the audacity to procreate. And instead of keeping his daughter under the cloak of darkness like any self-respecting intelligence-sucking vampire, that asshole has sought fit to foist his devil spawn, Emma Roberts, out into society, where she can continue his works by addling the brains of a tween generation who are too stupid to notice, what with being preoccupied with fellating their cell phones and that interminable ROFLing (Advice: Stop rolling around on the goddamn floor and pick up a book written with actual words — that constant stinging sensation you feel ain’t the Clearasil working, it’s atrophy.).
Oh, sure: Emma is cute (it’s called Germline engineering and her father’s 157 movie credits paid for it), but what she, or this movie, has to do with Nancy Drew is beyond me. I’ll concede that I don’t know a lot about the Nancy Drew novels (where I’m from, an 11-year-old boy caught with one of those books would’ve been given a King James and told to “pray the gay away”), but I know enough from scanning Wikipedia to realize that they had very little to do with InStyle magazine, cute boys, or a keen fashion sense. It’s almost as though the bubble-gum smacking love child of Amy Heckerling’s and Norville “Shaggy” Roberts had written the script — the only things missing are a cameos from Scrappy Doo and Donald Faison and a veiled reference to a toke-inspired threesome between Ken, Velma, and Cher in the back of the Mystery Machine. Seriously: It takes one helluva bad film to make you feel fondly nostalgic about the relatively supreme talents of Freddie Prinze Jr. and Mathew Lillard, but if I had to choose between watching Nancy Drew again or Scooby Doo 2: Monsters Unleashed, well, I’d probably choose to shoot myself first. But, I’d hate SD2 a little less. And as a PSA for of you hardcore Carolyn Keene fans, let me just say this: If you’re thinking about watching this Nancy Drew to recapture wistful memories of your childhood: Don’t. Dig out that old Nancy Drew lunchbox up in your attic and slam the lid on your fingers repeatedly, instead. You’ll have a much better time. And for those of you have some sick desire to see Nancy Drew for reasons that have nothing to do with the source material, I’ve got a better idea: Join Ipce (NSFW) — there’s a support group for everyone these days.
And somehow, if watching the niece of Julia Roberts (who, at 16, already has her own line of high-priced bags) in her last role before she magically morphs into one of the starletards of whom we do not speak isn’t enough to dissuade you from seeing Nancy Drew, let me just throw a couple of names at you: Barry Bostwick and Chris Kattan. Yeah — that’s what I thought. I can see a few of you through my screen calling Fandango and asking if you can refund your advanced ticket purchases. Don’t bother — it’s “no exchanges, no refunds.” But, if I were you, I’d just eat the cost. Because this is how bad Nancy Drew is: Kattan, for whatever reason, is neither mentioned on the official website nor listed in the IMDB credits. There’s only two logical explanations for that: Either 1) he was so ashamed of the film, he asked for his name to be removed, or 2) he is considered an uncredited cameo. If it’s the latter, that should speak volumes about the entertainment value of Nancy Drew: They couldn’t get any better cameo than freakin’ Mango? Granted, Bruce Willis also has an unbilled cameo, but let’s just be honest: He’s putting in a little face time and waiting for Roberts to turn 18 so he can sleep with her.
If you’ve come this far in the review, and you still aren’t convinced, let me tell you a little something about the film itself, if only to prove that I suffered through it. Writer/director Andrew Fleming, along with co-writer Tiffany Paulson, makes a half-assed attempt at modernizing Nancy Drew. They do so first and foremost by transplanting the action from Drew’s original stomping grounds, River Heights, to Hollywood, where she and her lawyer Dad (Tate Donavan/red flag) move into a haunted house with a ready-made mystery built in — a famous actress, Dehlia Draycott (played by Laura Harring in flashbacks and apparitions), who was murdered there 25 years ago. So, in addition to attempting to solve that case and discovering Dehlia’s long-lost illegitimate daughter and rightful heir (Rachel Leigh Cook, who — Wow! — is not so That anymore), Nancy also has to contend with high school in Hollywood Hills, where her nouveau retro-chic style (that’s plaid, to those unfamiliar with fashion-speak) makes her an outcast amongst the faux Mean Girls, who assault her with derisive insults, like “Nancy Weird” and “Martha Stewrt (sic).”
Also along for the ride the vapid tweeners who grow to love Nancy, a love interest, and a rolly-polly fat kid, who is supposed to be a substitute for the George of the original novels, though he’s not quite manly enough to fill that role (from what Mrs. Pajiba-hyphenate tells me, George was the first lesbian of young-adult literature). Also, the word “sleuthing” ought to get its own billing in the film — at times, the only way I managed to stay awake was to keep a running count of the times it was uttered: 14 by the time Nancy discovered the secret passageway and I gave up count, such was my disappointment that the Jigsaw Killer wasn’t hiding behind the door with a bone saw.
It was not until Nancy threw a party in the haunted house and ended up giving a girl an emergency tracheotomy before I finally bailed, but I just couldn’t bother with the last 20 minutes or so. The identity of the killer, by then, was pretty obvious — the only character listed high in the credits who had not yet been seen on screen for more than 30 seconds. If I’m wrong, well — who really gives a damn? It’s 20 minutes I can better spend jamming sharp objects into my nasal cavity.
I’ll concede that Fleming managed not to take too huge a dump on that mildly sacred grounds of Nancy Drew, if only because he didn’t eat up many of too many of the novels’ elements, other than to heavily borrow from their tediously formulaic nature. Mostly, the whole experience was just mind-numbing. But then again, at least it wasn’t the Hardy Boys starring Ben Stiller and Tom Cruise. Oh wait …
Dustin Rowles is the publisher of Pajiba. He lives with his wife in Ithaca, New York. You may email him, or leave a comment below.
Nancy Drew / Dustin Rowles
Film | June 15, 2007 | Comments ()