Nancy Drew: Don’t Hate Her Because She’s Perky

Invented in 1930 by the same Stratemeyer syndicate that gave the world Tom Swift and the Hardy Boys, the bold, intelligent, and well-brought-up Nancy Drew sleuthed her way through some 60 mystery novels—motoring around the Midwestern countryside in a blue roadster, amazing school chums with her perspicuity, and inspiring an international fan base. The last time Warner Bros. brought Nancy to the screen, she was a scatterbrained chatterbox; in her current incarnation, played by Emma Roberts (niece of Julia), she's a perky, politely eye-rolling little know-it-all. The movie derives much of its humor from the spectacle of Nancy's single-minded rectitude once she and Dad (Tate Donovan) relocate to a spooky old mansion in the Hollywood Hills where, 25 years before, the star Dehlia Draycott met her mysterious demise. Nancy plunges headlong into that mystery as well as the world of Hollywood High; there, she is the enigma, astounding the resident mean girls with her bulletproof Teflon dweebishness. Unavoidably arch but essentially playful in its wit, Nancy Drew neither wears out its welcome nor compromises its heroine. Nancy is unstoppable. By movie's end, her trademark penny loafers and Sandra Dee outfits have been officially pronounced fashionable—"the new sincerity." That's pretty much the idea of this 12-year-old superheroine, quotation marks and all.

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