Nancy Drew (2007)

The silly finger of coincidence hit our blog again this morning. I figured that a season of The Hardy Boys was incomplete without Nancy Drew, and I remembered enjoying the 2007 film version, which I took my daughter, then nine years old, to see when it was released, so I picked up a used copy and penciled it in for whatever ended up being the first Sunday after we started the Nancy-free third season of The Hardy Boys. The rest of the movie schedule fluctuates around anchors like this one, you see.

So last week, we dropped in Who Framed Roger Rabbit, meaning one of its California locations was fresh in my mind when Nancy and her twelve year-old pal Corky nearly get run down by some thugs while walking through the Griffith Park Tunnel. In Rabbit, that’s the tunnel that they used as the entrance to Toon Town. Plenty of films and TV shows have shot in that tunnel over the decades, most memorably Back to the Future II, but I’m impressed that we watched two of them a week apart.

Nancy Drew is a very California film and it’s very much of its time. In this iteration, Nancy is still a high school student and her father, played by Tate Donovan, wants a break from her sleuthing while they’re staying in Los Angeles for a few months on business. When it was released, my daughter had no experience of the character, but she saw TV ads by the bucket on all the tween girl shows that she watched on Nick. It’s really aimed at that audience, presenting a Nancy who’s an old-fashioned, overachieving fish out of water among all the fashion-obsessed, overdressed students at Hollywood High, and encouraging viewers to just be themselves. At one point, Nancy is forced to ask “Is there a law against common courtesy in Los Angeles?”

Meanwhile, there’s a mystery to be solved. Nancy arranged their accommodations in a decaying mansion that had belonged to a film actress who had died in the early 1980s, shortly after a mysterious months-long disappearance at the close of a fading career. Laura Harring plays the movie star in “old footage” and stacks and stacks of photos and covers of 1960s film gossip magazines. Last night, I grumbled about Universal’s art and props department just phoning it in for the third episode of Hardy Boys, but that probably just made me appreciate how much hard work Warners’ crew put into making this actress’s past seem real and vivid through scrapbooks, VHS tapes, and dozens and dozens of pictures.

So while Nancy starts ruffling feathers by looking into the distant past of 1980-81, she crosses paths with Bruce Willis, on location filming a period detective movie, and seeing the sights of Hollywood, and getting into car chases after the boy-who-really-likes-her, Ned Nickerson, drives her vintage Nash Metropolitan to LA for her to drive around while obeying the speed limit. The danger grows when Barry Bostwick, playing the most obvious villain you ever hissed, realizes that Nancy’s after a secret he wants to stay buried.

Naturally there are secret passages and old dark tunnels and big mean henchmen, and the movie’s perfectly inspiring for its young audience, and not just with its “be yourself” message. Our son was a little baffled by the clique business in the high school, but Nancy has a string-and-paperclip fishing line already wound around a pencil in her sleuthing kit, and after we got back from lunch, he wanted one of those for himself. You never know when you might need one of those to snatch some important documents from under the nose of an abandoned theater full of thugs.