Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Girl Detective

Last week Judi's great-niece was visiting, and we took her to see the new Nancy Drew movie. As a rule, we aren't big on seeing movies, at least in theaters. Judi came with me to see Wallace and Grommit -- I gues that was about a year and a half ago. Before that, I think the last movie we saw together in a theater was the first Back to the Future movie, and that was when it was first released. Of course, next week we'll have to go back to see Underdog, since it stars a beagle, but you can see we don't do a lot of movies. But Judi wanted to see Nancy Drew. She was a huge fan of the Nancy Drew books when she was growing up, and, honestly, she hasn't finished growing up. Which is a good thing.

Anyway, this post isn't a review of Nancy Drew, just a commentary. Well, okay, I'll give you my review: I liked it. A lot. End of review. Also, there are absolutely no spoilers in this post, so you can read on and still see the movie and still be surprised, or disappointed, or whatever.

Okay, commentary:

For you Nancy Drew purists, be aware that the movie is different from the books, and the Nancy of the movie is even different from the Nancy of the books. In the books, over the many decades, Nancy keeps up with the trends and the times. She's always a modern girl, whatever that means at the time each book is written. In the movie, it's exactly the opposite: Nancy has been cast as a throwback to the 1950's, at least in her dress, her mores, and her moralitity -- she is very current in her technology: She has an iPod and a laptop (an Apple iBook), and uses the Internet to research clues (I think the browser is Safari, but I'm not sure). (And while we're on the subject of technology: Why an old, abandoned, run-down, perhaps-haunted house has wireless Internet access never explained in the movie, but, hey, it's a movie -- I can suspend a little disbelief.)

But getting back to the 1950's: The movie's opening sequence, set in River Heights, is almost painfully Ozzie and Harriet. You almost expect the town's Smokey-the-Bear-hat wearing police to break into coordinated song-and-dance at any moment. (Thankfully, they don't.) But "bear" with it (pun intended). It's my opinion that they deliberately made Nancy retro, because they are about to send her off to...


Pretty much the most non-retro place in the world.

And the contrast between the two, as well as the effect that L.A. has on Nancy, and that Nancy has on L.A., make for some great scenes.

I thought it was a clever bit of tongue-in-cheek irony that the making of movies plays a part in the plot of this movie, including a visit to a movie set where Bruce Willis is shooting a film. Willis's cameo is funny and winsome.

Nancy herself is such a serious girl -- at one point she tells another teenage girl "Anyone can learn advanced life-saving techniques" and does it with a perfectly straight face. And when someone says to her, "You're joking," she deadpans back with, "I never joke," and we realize she's right.

Nancy's mother gets a little bit bigger role in the movie than in the books: Twice Nancy is compared to her mother, and also twice Nancy tells someone that she isn't sure she remembers anything about her mother -- whether her memories are real or just imagined. Nancy makes her retro-style clothes by using her mother's old patterns... is that a clue that she's pining for her lost mother? And Nancy even makes a point of calling her mother "a mystery," which led me to the interesting idea that perhaps Nancy's compulsive "sleuthing" is driven by a desire to "solve" the mystery that is her mother.

Another movie departure from the books is Nancy's age: Nancy is not eighteen. In the books (which are still being written: Nancy Drew, Troubled Water was published this past April, and Nancy Drew, Murder on the Set was published in May, while Nancy Drew, Trail of Treachery is due out next month), Nancy remains forever eighteen. But the Nancy in the movie, with her bony legs and flat chest, while old enough to drive, still has some puberty to go through. I have a feeling I know why they did this, though: Emma Roberts, unlike the real Nancy, will not remain forever young, and since she's already signed on to appear in sequels, they need to leave her a little room to grow.

Finally, Andrea will be happy to hear that Danger Sidekicks have a role in Nancy Drew, albiet in the hands of the "bad girls."


oooh, now i want to see this!

and there's an academic/trade paperback book out on nancy drew; i used to have it but it got loaned out and not returned before i could read it fully...perhaps judi would be interested in reading it. i'll look up the title when i get a chance. :) your comment on nancy 'sleuthing' for the 'mystery' of her mother (e.g. origins) reminded me of this...) excellent observation, btw.

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