out of Five
Running time: 99
Watchable family adventure with a commendable message about being your own person, but this is aimed squarely at young audiences rather than nostalgia-seeking Nancy fans.
What's it all about?
Emma Roberts (Julia's niece) plays teenaged sleuth Nancy Drew, whose widowed father, lawyer Carson Drew (Tate Donovan), is concerned that all her amateur detective work is getting her into too much trouble. When Carson's job involves the pair of them relocating to LA for the summer, he makes Nancy promise to try and give the sleuthing a rest for a while.
However, despite her best efforts, Nancy just can't resist a good mystery and it isn't long before she's investigating the strange death of 70s Hollywood starlet Dehlia Draycott (Laura Elena Harring). Fortunately, Nancy has lots of clues to be getting on with, because she sneakily arranged for them to rent Draycott's old house before they arrived.
The story is well thought out and all the elements from the Stratemeyer Syndicate books (first written in the 1930s but regularly updated for new audiences) are present and correct: there are secret passages, hidden wills, a creepy groundskeeper, Nancy's ever-present sleuthing kit and even an old-fashioned chloroforming.
In addition, Nancy proves to be a thoroughly respectable role model for young girls and there's an effectively conveyed message about being true to yourself in the way prim-and-proper Nancy isn't remotely bothered by LA high school peer pressure.
Unfortunately, despite possessing Aunt Julia's movie-star genes, Emma Roberts is a little too bland to really do the character justice and you'll find yourself wishing someone like Anne Hathaway had played her instead. Similarly, Nancy-fans of a certain age who fondly remember the Pamela Sue Martin TV series will find little in the way of nostalgic enjoyment here.
Nancy Drew should please its target audience of young girls but older viewers will be disappointed. Still, it's never less than watchable and there's enough here for the makings of a decent new franchise.