Here's another of those films that was savaged by a lot of critics when it opened in the US. And once again, I don't understand their problem. No, it's not going to win an Oscar, but neither is it another Norbit. It's a fairly mediocre, inoffensive updating of the popular heroine that's firmly aimed at girls aged 8-14, and on that front, it works.
Girl sleuth Nancy Drew (Roberts, desperately in need of a good meal) and her lawyer father (Donovan) move from small-town USA to big-city LA. They rent a mansion that was once owned by a Hollywood starlet who died in mysterious circumstances. What's this, a mystery? Cue Nancy sticking her nose in where her dad keeps telling her not to, and you have an hour and a half of pleasant, sometimes amusing family entertainment. The character of Nancy Drew was created by American writer Mildred Wirt Benson back in the 1930s, and there have been a few film and TV adaptations over the years, but its never become a major franchise. This latest version by director Andrew Fleming has already been slated for a sequel (coming in 2009) and updates our heroine — well, updates her a little bit. Nancy and her father both dress as though they're refugees from the 1940s, and stick out like sore thumbs in modern, hip LA. The filmmakers could easily have gone the Brady Bunch Movie route, and ramped up the fish-out-of-water side of things for laughs, but they decide to play it straight. Which, funnily enough, works.
The mystery itself is a no-brainer that could be solved by the average 8-year-old (there's only one real suspect!) but it's fun watching Drew go through the investigative paces. There's also the usual high school hijinks, with the cool, trendy girls mocking Nancy until they see what a wonderful girl she really is, and a slighty creepy subplot with a younger boy who has an almost stalkerish crush on the amateur detective. Roberts is charming and perky in the role, even if she is scarily thin (not really the sort of role model we want little girls taking after, thanks). The supporting cast are up to scratch, with no one really standing out — but there is a surprising, and quite funny, cameo from Bruce Willis, so keep your eyes peeled.