Nancy Drew

Though not a classic work of literature that calls for periodical remakes, such as “Little Women,” “Nancy Drew” continues to exert some spell, perhaps due to the fact that most literature and movies of that kind have centered on boys. Besides, in a summer season dominated by boys or boys-men like Spidey, Shrek, Captain Jack Sparrow, and the Transformers, the notion of a chick flick for girls about the adventures of an amateur detective is soundhence Warner's new screen version starring the gifted and attractive Emma Roberts (of Nickelodeon Unfabulous” fame).

As a protag, Nancy is a resourceful girl with a mind of her own, a passion for solving Mysteries, and a penchant for getting into tricky situations. In this version, Nancy leaves her friendly hometown of River Heights for the West Coast and enrolls at Hollywood High School. Once there, her eccentric (read deviant) personality sets her apart from the other girls, all self-absorbed, fast-living. She is contrasted with the reigning fashionistas Inga (Daniella Monet) and Trish (Kelly Vitz), who hard as they try cant figure her out.

Neither can we In an effort to bring the heroine up to date, she seems like a bundle of contradictions, at once retro and postmodern. Nancy is ultra smart and can be witty, bust she also possesses old-world manners, manifest in her fastidious preparation for the “perfect” picnic lunches–and penny loafers.

The less-than-warm reception doesn't bother Nancy, or so she says. Even though she promised her worried dad Carson (Tate Donovan) that shed quit the sleuthing business, it doesn't take long for Nancy to get a lead on an unsolved case, the mysterious circumstances surrounding the death of famous actress Dehlia Draycott. It “just happens” that the Drews are staying in the former Draycott Mansion, believed to be a haunted site, where strange things continue to happen.

It could have been a nice, modestly entertaining feature, but I am afraid it was assigned to the wrong director, Andrew Fleming, a helmer lacking basic craftsmanship, as was evident in half a dozen pictures, most recently in the pedestrian remake “The In-Laws.” Fleming has made better forays into this terrain before–remember his comedy “Dick” in 1999 starring Kirsten Dunstso it's frustrating to see such an uneven picture, particularly since the director is also a co-writer.

The screenplay, by Fleming and Tiffany Paulsen, from a story by Tiffany Paulsen, based on characters created by Carolyn Keene, is not particularly engaging either. And the central mystery case assigned to Nancy is not much fun to observe.

The feature's narrative and helming problems are exacerbated by the lack of a decisive tone, vacillating between retro, occasionally even nostalgic treatment and an effort to make a cool, witty feature in tune with the zeitgeist. Indeed, the time factor works against this “Nancy Drew,” since over the past decade or so there have been so many bright and nasty high-school comedies centering on female adolescents–Tina Fey (“Mean Girls”) has contributed to a number of them.

Finally, the film's “fish out of water” conceit is too familiar by now. The filmmakers try to create an interesting, humorous juxtaposition by taking the all-American Nancy out of her comfort zone and throwing her into an unfamiliar worldcontemporary La La Land, where everything is expected to be faster, louder, and crazier. I say expected, because this “Nancy Drew” is anything but faster, louder, and crazier.