MOVIE REVIEW- Jeepers! Nancy tackles 'The Blue Dehlia'
Director Andrew Fleming (The In-Laws, The Craft) is responsible for Nancy Drew, a cheaply made wannabe franchise, the latest attempt to bring the teen detective to the big screen. It would be a better fit on television, where the popularity of the books (do girls still read them?) would make it a viable pilot. WB-TV yes, WB movies no. Plugs for Smallville seem to confirm the target audience.
Emma Roberts, daughter of Eric and niece of Julia, plays the eponymous girl detective, who gets off to a fast start when she catches two burglars in the act of robbing her church. She negotiates their surrender with the D.A., then exits via the roof for no reason but to trigger a tepid action scene.
Having solved all the mysteries in River Heights, "in one of those flyover states," Nancy moves with her father (Tate Donovan, looking like a younger Dennis Quaid) to Los Angeles for a few months. With her retro perfect demeanor and vintage wardrobe, Nancy stands out at Hollywood High. She fits better in the haunted house she picked for her dad to rent. It's where ‘70s film star Dehlia Draycott (Laura Harring) lived and mysteriously died 25 years ago after vanishing for a few months, then resurfacing and throwing a big party. Her death is "one of the greatest unsolved mysteries of all time," so Nancy has to solve it, even though she promised her father she wouldn't sleuth in California.
Never going anywhere without a notebook, a compass, fresh baked goods, and rappelling equipment, Nancy acquires one admirer, precocious 12-year-old Corky (Josh Flitter), who finds "the ability to sleuth" an attractive quality in a girl. Her chief detractor is Corky's sister, Inga (Daniella Monet), one of the local mean girls.
Nancy deduces Dehlia went away to have a baby and locates her now-grown daughter, Jane Brighton (Rachael Leigh Cook), who doesn't know her own history. Before long, Nancy's boyfriend, Ned Nickerson (Max Thieriot), comes to visit and gets jealous of four-years-younger Corky.
The only suspicious characters around are Leshing (Marshall Bell), who'd been Dehlia's caretaker and had a major crush on her (think Norma Desmond's Max), and Dashiel Biedermeyer (Barry Bostwick), who had been her attorney; so there's not a lot of sleuthing for Nancy to do in solving "The Case of the Blue Dehlia."
As befits a product aimed at the very young, the performances are campy and over-the-top, with the charge led by Caroline Aaron as realtor Barbara Barbara, who advises Nancy, "With a little tweaking you could be adorable. You're just a makeover waiting to happen." Whoever made Barbara over should be shot.
At least the "Scooby-doo" movies tried to offer something for grown-up nostalgiacs. Perhaps they'll also find satisfaction in seeing that Nancy Drew hasn't grown up, but if they're over 12, they won't find much entertainment in her latest incarnation.