Directed By: Andrew Fleming
Starring: Emma Roberts, Josh Flitter, Max Thierot, Tate Donovan, Rachel Leigh Cook, Barry Bostwick, Daniella Monet, Kelly Vitz
Nancy Drew offers a modern cinematic update of the classic juvenile fiction detective. Emma Roberts plays the title character whose proclivity for sleuthing is always getting her into danger. This results in anxiety for her widowed father, attorney Carson Drew (Donovan), despite appreciation from local law enforcement in her small home town of River Heights. Carson brings Nancy along on a multi-month business trip to Los Angeles, making her promise to refrain from sleuthing while in the big city. Nancy's nature gets the best of her, however, and she soon finds herself embroiled in a mystery involving the estate of a deceased movie star, a long lost child, and a missing will. Things are further complicated by Nancy's fish out of water assimilation into a Los Angeles high school and multiple attempts on her life as she gets closer to unraveling the mystery.
Director Andrew Fleming walks a fine line between presenting a broadly comic fish out of water farce a la The Brady Bunch Movie and a faithful representation of the character as readers remember. For the most part, he wisely favors the latter by establishing Nancy as old-fashioned rather than hopelessly out-dated. Nancy, as portrayed by 16 year old Emma Roberts, is identifiably the character that readers will remember with a few modern trappings (such as a digital recorder hooked up to an iPod) supplementing her standard sleuthing arsenal. The girls at the high school who tease her for her extreme primness and fondness for penny loafers are kept on the periphery of events so that Nancy can get down to her normal sleuthy business. The mystery has all of the elements one would hope for in a Nancy Drew story inclusive of old houses, secret passageways, creepy caretakers, and mysterious initials on letters.
Probably the biggest miscue in this update is saddling Nancy with an annoying sidekick in the character of Corky played by Josh Flitter. He feels like he was flown in from some Nickelodeon or Disney Channel tweener sitcom to do nothing but crack wise and shill for laughs when he is on screen. While he has occasionally funny moments, the shtick with which he is saddled wears thin as his screen time accumulates. Another minor misstep is the handling of the Ned Nickerson character as a romantic interest for Nancy. While actor Max Thierot does a good job of embodying the character and has a fun on-screen chemistry with Roberts, he is literally out of the picture for so long that the big moment resolving Ned's relationship with Nancy near the film's end feels unearned. This is a shame because the stretch of the film where Ned visits Nancy in Los Angeles is among the film's best segments.
None of these shortcomings prove fatal though, and the end result is a fun combination of family comedy with good old fashioned Nancy Drew-style sleuthiness.
16:9 enhanced 2.4:1 aspect ratio video presentation accurately reproduces the muted scheme of the production design and cinematography which emphasize browns and yellows. Contrast and shadow detail are both outstanding. Compression artifacts will be noticeable on large projection screens, which hinder fine detail in an otherwise excellent presentation. A 4:3 presentation is also available on the same side of this dual-layered disc, but was not viewed by this author.
The English Dolby Digital 5.1 track, encoded at a 384 kbps bitrate, makes frequent use of the surround field to provide light ambient support. LFE is used sparingly, most noticeably in the case of a scene with a large explosion. Dialog is anchored to the center channel, but sound effects and music use a wide stereo spread across the front channels. Fidelity is excellent and does not suffer appreciably from the relatively low bitrate encoding. Alternate Dolby Digital 5.1 tracks are provided in Spanish and French
All of the extras are presented in letterboxed 4:3 video with Dolby Digital 2.0 sound. All include English and French subtitles except for the music video which has neither.
Nancy Drew: Kids at Work runs nine minutes and one second and offers a brief overview of the film's production with an emphasis on its young stars. Commentators include Director Andrew Fleming, Producer Jerry Weintraub, Costume Designer Jeffrey Kurland, Production Designer Tony Fanning, and actors Emma Roberts, Tate Donovan, Daniella Monet, and Max Thierot.
Gag Reel is a slickly edited montage set to music of semi-amusing moments of flubbing lines, falling down, and goofing off by the cast and crew that runs one minute and 49 seconds.
"Pretty Much Amazing" by Joanna is a music video that runs three minutes and one second. It consists entirely of clips from the film with a few on-screen titles added for effect followed by a plug for the soundtrack album at the end.
Mini Featurettes is a collection of five brief video pieces that run nine minutes and 42 seconds if "Play All" is chosen. They are as follows:
- Our IPod Idolatry – Young stars Roberts, Monet, Thierot, Flitter, and Kelly Vitz appear on camera to reveal what is on their iPods.
- Nancy Drew's Detective Kit – Roberts offers a tour of the contents of Nancy's kit with the contents spread across a table.
- Behind the Scenes – A Montage of on-set footage providing glimpses of the shooting of a sequence at the Drayton House set.
- Day on the Set – Catches up with Roberts as she arrives at her make-up trailer where she provides glimpses of how continuity is achieved for the look of her character, explains the inner workings of the "Cheese Club", and discusses the finer points of the "Pumpkin Time" dance.
- Emma's Last Day – Behind the scenes footage of Roberts going through multiple takes on her "wrap day"
- A Dennis the Menace Christmas DTV Trailer (1:25)
- Get Smart Theatrical Teaser (1:16)
- Hairspray DVD Trailer (:33)
- Nancy Drew Soundtrack promo (:35)
The film comes in a standard Amaray-style case with no inserts. Both the 16:9 enhanced widescreen and the modified 4:3 transfers are presented on the same side of a dual-layered disc.
Director Andrew Fleming's well-cast updating of Nancy Drew applies a light layer of post modern irony to the standard juvenile detective trappings with mostly satisfying results. It is presented on DVD with a decent if slightly bit-starved widescreen transfer and a modestly dimensional 5.1 audio mix with very good fidelity. Extras are minor and youth-oriented with a few interesting behind the scenes glimpses scattered throughout.