Who shall ascend the hill of the Lord?
And who shall stand in his holy place?
Those who have clean hands and pure hearts,
who do not lift up their souls to what is false,
and do not swear deceitfully.
Surely teenage detective Nancy Drew could be among those whom the Psalmist might consider worthy of ascending “the hill of the Lord” —though whether or not she is a believer is not revealed in this latest movie. (I’ve never read one of “Carolyn Keene’s” 56 novels, so I don’t know whether her religious profession was ever mentioned.) Born and raised in the Midwest town of River Heights, Nancy has all the mythical virtues ascribed to small town life—openness and honesty, a friendliness ever ready to lend a helping hand, a strong work ethic, and a humble lack of pretension—plus a keen intelligence coupled with an insatiable desire to unravel mysteries.
Apparently in an attempt to modernize the story, the filmmakers have set her in the present day, but placed her up against the overly sophisticated culture of Hollywood. Nancy’s out of date penny loafers and small town manners make her seem to the self-obsessed students at Hollywood High like a creature from another planet. While they eat junk food, strewn across their plates, Nancy arranges her nutritious meal of veggies and fruit in neat rows on hers, prompting one girl to send the text message, “OMG, I’m sitting next to Martha Stewart!” Another derides her with, “Penny loafers — did your podiatrist recommend them or are you being ironic?”
Nancy is so self-confident that she ignores all the cruel jibes and put-downs—hers is definitely not a Carrie story! Her reaction is to ask, “Is there a law against common courtesy in Los Angeles?” and then to about her business of solving the mystery surrounding the mansion that her father Carson Drew (Tate Donovan) has rented for their extended stay in Los Angeles. They had left River Heights when he had received an offer of a possible lucrative job. Trusting the business sense of his daughter, he had left it up to her to arrange for their lodging. The ever inquisitive Nancy was drawn to the vacant mansion of once famous actress Dehlia Draycott (Laura Elena Harring), who had died there under strange circumstances. Although she had pledged her father that she would do no sleuthing while in Hollywood, Nancy is drawn irresistibly into the decades-old unsolved mystery, part of it centering around the ominous caretaker.
At school there is one student who is drawn to Nancy, pudgy Corky (Josh Flitter), who thinks she is his dream girl. However, Corky is 12 years-old, on a fast forward academic track because of his brains. He would have their relationship become more than just friendship, but Nancy keeps his ardor cooled. After all, her sort of boyfriend Ned Nickerson (Max Thieriot) has come to L.A. to see how she is doing and to deliver her beloved roadster. Much of the humor, other than Nancy’s obliviousness to the disdain of such sophisticates as snobby fellow students Inga and Trish, issues from Corky’s jealousy of Ned.
The film will be of interest mainly to young teen girls, though there is enough humor and mildly exciting adventure to make it a family film. Such scenes as Nancy blithely performing an emergency tracheotomy on a stricken student are fun—she calmly announces to those gathered around while using a borrowed pen knife (though some have to look away as she proceeds), “Anyone can learn emergency medical procedures.” Car lovers will find delight in the scenes involving her roadster—I’m told it is a Nash Metropolitan convertible. Hardly a deathless contribution to filmdom, the film does mark the emergence of star Emma Roberts as she moves from the small to the big screen. She is just right as the unpretentious sleuth with a heart full of compassion and keen mind that goes into overdrive when confronted by an unsolved crime.
1) Nancy is pictured as almost perfect in all that she does: what keeps her from being over bearing? How is she like Elle Woods in Legally Blonde?
2) Compare this film to other “fish out of water” tales, such as the second Legally Blonde film, or the more serious Bridge to Terabithia..
3) How might Paul’s word from Romans 12:2 apply to Nancy?
“Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God—what is good and acceptable and perfect.
4) How do you think the Nancy Drew novels have served girls since their introduction in 1930? What was the status of females then—and what roadblocks to their self fulfillment still exist today?
5) How do you think the depiction of Nancy as super confident “fixer” appeals to the young, who often lack a sense of empowerment? How is this common to most stories told from a child or adolescent’s viewpoint?