Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Nancy Drew

Murder I Wrote

I last read a Nancy Drew book about 20 years ago, so much of my memory of the fictional character is probably faulty. From what I gathered, the books were introduced to me at an era when teenage sleuths were popular to children growing up at the time (for my case, the 80s and early 90s), with Hardy Boys, Famous Five, and of course, "Carolyn Keene"'s Nancy Drew amongst the more famous ones. I still remember those hardcover books with very dated cover illustrations, usually quite heavy (for a kid) to lug around, and the thickness of the book perhaps attributed to the fact that the words are printed in large fonts.

Well, the character has been given some updates along the way, as I recall my sister's subsequent Nancy Drew books becoming less thick, of softcover, with updated and a more chic Nancy illustrated on the cover. I can't remember if those stories were the same as the old hardcover ones, but I guess these books, being ghostwritten, have their fair share of updating itself for the times.

In this Warner Brothers release of Nancy Drew, the character no doubt gets its update to suit the times, but somehow the writers Andrew Fleming and Tiffany Paulsen maintained her 50s-ish small town sensibilities, thereby retaining some charm and flavour that erm, folks like me, would appreciate. Her fashion sense, her prim and properness, even some quirky little behaviour traits that makes her, well, Nancy Drew.

Her family background remains more or less the same, living with her single parent father Carson Drew (Tate Donovan), who is moving his daughter and himself to the big city for a better job opportunity, and to wean his daughter off sleuthing in the town of River Heights. Mom is but a distant memory, and the housemaid makes a cameo. But what made Nancy Drew work, is the casting of Emma Roberts in the lead role. Niece of her famous aunt Julia, she too possess that sprightly demeanour, that unmistakable red hair and that megawatt smile. Her Nancy Drew, while in the beginning does seem to rub you the wrong way, actually will grow on you. And in almost what I thought could be a discarded scene from Pretty Woman, it had the characters walk into a classy shop with almost opposite reactions.

While Dad Carson Drew tries hard to bring Nancy out of her sleuthing environment and to assimilate into normal teenage life, trust Nancy to find themselves living in a house whose owner, a Hollywood type has been, was found murdered under suspicious circumstances. Mystery solving is her comfort food when she finds herself an outcast of the local fraternity, and not before long we're whisked off along with her on her big screen adventure.

There's nothing too Black Dahlia about the crime and mystery, and instead it's a pretty straightforward piece for Nancy to solve, in between befriending Corky (Josh Flitter) a chubby friend from school, and pacifying jealous boyfriend Ned (Max Thieriot), while hiding the truth of her extra curriculum activities from her dad. The story's laced with cheesy fun and an oldie sentimentality which charms, and together, it becomes somewhat scooby-doo like. With minimal violence and no big bag gunfights or explosions, this is seriously a genre which is labelled clearly with "chick flick" alert.

It's actually quite breezy and a fluffy movie to sit through amongst the summer offerings thus far, with a decent contemporary soundtrack to boot. I guess the movie will generate a new generation of fans, rekindle the memories of old ones, and probably, just probably, might spark a new fashion trend of sporting penny loafers.

Click here to learn more about Nancy Drew.

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