The case of the lost teen detective

'Nancy Drew' update: Cartoon-ish mess

Posted: June 15, 2007

The big mystery in "Nancy Drew" is how this production ever made it to the big screen.

This update of the venerable girls' adventure books reaches into the Nickelodeon cavalacade of stars for its lead actress Emma Roberts ("Unfabulous"), but surrounds her with a movie that would be hard-pressed to earn a slot on cable.

The would-be franchise is built around the dubious idea that Nancy Drew needs to be funnier and more contemporary - the movie transplants her from smalltown USA to an urban L.A. high school, where her preppy, last-century style makes her a social outcast.

Nancy has promised dad (Tate Donovan) not to sleuth, but she gets caught up in the mystery of their new home - the former mansion of a dead movie star, who is said to have concealed her last will and testament on the property.

The plot is more "Scooby-Do" than "Nancy Drew" - over-the-top cartoon villains up to no good, and they would have gotten away with it, too, if it weren't for those meddling kids.

The script saddles Roberts with an unappealing sidekick, an almost unbelievably drippy boyfriend, and two fashion-obsessed high school adversaries who only invite unflattering comparisons to "Mean Girls" and "Clueless."

"Nancy Drew" has almost nothing to do with the original teen detective. Attempts to convert this into a fizzy comedy rely almost entirely on the charms of young comedienne Roberts, who is given very little with which to work.

She's a charming girl, but like so many other actresses of her generation, Roberts looks like she needs to spend more time doing the things kids her age normally do - like eating pizza. *

Produced by Jerry Weintraub, written and directed by Andrew Fleming, music by Ralph Sall, distributed by Warner Bros.

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