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"I like old-fashioned things," Nancy Drew says to the girls making fun of her in her first big-screen incarnation since the '30s. After watching her sleuthing antics for an hour and 40 minutes, a great many tween girls may surprise themselves by thinking, "I do too!"
Bringing the classic Nancy back to life in a new millennium with cell phones, iPods, and the internet poses obvious challenges. But rather than reinvent the heroine for modern times, screenwriter Tiffany Paulsen highlights her nostalgic appeal by moving her from River Heights (better known as Anytown, USA) to good ol' La La Land. Once arrived, Nancy finds that she not only has the mystery of film star Dehlia Draycott's death to solve, but also the mystery of where the modesty, courtesy, and common sense of the teenage girls of Los Angeles disappeared to.
Nancy Drew's plot is admittedly predictable, and the film (rated PG for mild violence and language) has ongoing anachronistic problems (Dehlia Draycott is supposed to have been a star in the '70s and '80s, but her house and her movie clips make her look more like a contemporary of Jane Russell than Jane Seymour). But in spite of all this, the young, comedically gifted cast manages to pull it off.
As played by Emma Roberts (daughter of Eric and niece of Julia), Nancy boasts a plucky self-assuredness that inspires rather than annoys. Unlike her classmates, she's smart and capable, cares more about being good than looking good, and isn't particularly interested in what the boys think. In this day and age that's pretty groundbreaking stuff, and I couldn't help wondering why the strongest example of true feminism Hollywood has offered girls in years comes from a creation nearly eight decades old.
The hearts of mothers battered by Paris Hilton and Bratz dolls will get a lift from an afternoon out with their daughters enjoying the wholesome fun of Nancy Drew. And in a perfect world, their girls will get a new role model, too.