Nancy Drew v.2.0

The original girl sleuth is back, and she's pluckier than ever

Movie Guru

by Natalie Nichols

Meet the new Nancy Drew, same as the old Nancy Drew. And that's what's great about Warner Brothers' Nancy Drew , starring Emma Roberts as the titular brave, brainy teenage sleuth, who's forever solving mysteries she can't resist, especially when they are, as one admirer in her idyllic hometown comically proclaims, â“beyond the abilities of local law-enforcement agencies.â”

Relentlessly curious, impeccably mannered, and always stylish, Nancy Drew has been tackling weirdness since 1930, when she debuted in the youth adventure novel The Secret of the Old Clock , the first of many by various authors under the pseudonym Carolyn Keene. The books have been updated several times, and Nancy's exploits translated to TV, videogames, and even graphic novels. But she hasn't had a big-screen incarnation since Bonita Granville portrayed her in four 1938-39 films (released, hail synergy, on DVD this week).

Though generations apart, both movie Drews are plucky, clever and thoroughly modern girls, just like Nancy should be. There's no doubt she will solve the mystery, only a question of how she'll do it. Tapping into her timelessness, new Drew director Andrew Fleming ( Dick , The Craft ) and his screenplay co-writer, Tiffany Paulsen, have created a sweet and innocent film (as befits its tween audience), with goofy humor, a little suspense, and moments of affectionate near-camp that some fans might find mocking, although they ultimately celebrate Nancy in all her squeaky-clean glory.

A pop soundtrack and cool detective gadgets reinforce the modernity, but here Nancy is back to age 16, rather than the 18 she's been for several decades. Fleming honors her durability with a memory-lane opening montage, then introduces the sleuth in contemporary action mode, methodically apprehending bad guys in tiny River Heights while practically the whole town cheers. But the situation turns scary, and Nancy promises her dad, widowed lawyer Carson (Tate Donovan), that she'll stop chasing cases and become a â“normalâ” teenager (whatever that is).

As if. Carson has a job opportunity in Hollywood, so they leave behind Nancy's would-be beau Ned Nickerson (Max Thieriot) and doting housekeeper Hannah (Monica Parker)â"whose old-fashioned baked treats contain the magical nostalgic power to get Nancy out of jams. But how can she stop sleuthing? Waiting in Los Angeles is a spooky rental mansion, complete with strange noises, a creepy caretaker (Marshall Bell), and an old mystery involving a murdered movie star (Laura Elena Harring) and a living young woman (Rachael Leigh Cook). Possibly more daunting, though Nancy isn't intimidated, are mean Hollywood High girls Inga (Daniella Monet) and Trish (Kelly Vitz), and the former's 12-year-old brother, Corky (adorably irrepressible Josh Flitter), who instantly crushes on Nancy and soon becomes her best friend. At least until Ned turns up.

Despite the numerous characters and plot twists, the story unfolds somewhat predictably. One action sequence seems far-fetched, and some things about the dead star's life feel strangely anachronistic. The script often glosses over nuances and detailsâ"but, then again, Nancy Drew books aren't famous for their complexity. It's also not unexpected that Nancy is the best-developed character. Nickelodeon TV star Roberts gives her the necessary efficiency and empathy, hinting at an inner emotional life (especially as concerns her own long-dead mother, the ultimate mystery) and rocking her unique, smartly coordinated outfits (kudos to costume designer Jeffrey Kurland) with mature confidence.

Nancy makes a fine heroine: assertive, unapologetically smart, and totally focused on a problem to the exclusion of anything else, including romance. I only wish the movie hadn't included the scene where Corky initially addresses her in a comical â“hey, babyâ” pint-sized-pimp style. It's played for laughs but still feels weird. Corky never acts that way again, even when he amusingly attempts to compete with Ned. The â“hey, babyâ” doesn't reflect his character so much as it objectifies Nancy, and it's jarring in a film otherwise lacking sexual innuendo.

Thankfully, Thieriot's Ned provides an antidote, accepting his backseat status without becoming possessive or petty. He stands by Nancy, no matter what. And in the end, that's exactly what she needs.

Movie Guru Rating:

Video a-Go-Go

I Think I Broke a Nail

Remember when the Girls Gone Wild film crew came to town a couple years back and shot footage of some of Knoxville's youngest, bustiest, most inebriated female specimens? Yeah, those girls were pretty brave, standing up on the bar like that and baring it all for the world to see, knowing full well that such action had the potential to haunt them for the rest of their earthly existence. (a.k.a.: â“Daddy, why is the DVD next to Barney duct-taped shut?â”)

But Girls Gone Wild 's starlets have nothing on those of Girls Gone Grabblin ' , featuring 30 scenes of soaking-wet Southern women wrestling monster catfish with nothing but their gloved hands. You read that right. Hot girls vs. catfish.

For newbies to the sport of grabblin' (also called noodlin'), the premise is pretty simple: Right around this time of the year, mother-to-be catfish start depositing their eggs in sheltered nest-sitesâ"boat ramps, hollow logs, and suchâ"in the Tennessee River. After the eggs are deposited, the daddy catfish moves in to guard them and stays there until the fry leave the nest. Being in their protector mode, the daddies will strike out at anything that approaches the nest, including but not limited to the hands of hot girls.

That's when the real action begins. Once the grabblers have a line on a daddy catfish, they can pull it to the surface. It's no easy task, considering the fact that some of those suckers weigh more than 40 pounds. To make matters worse, they're slimy and wiggly, not to mention really, really ugly. The trick, they say, is wrapping your leg around them to keep the catfish stillâ"that's kind of sexy, yes?

OK, maybe not. But it still puts the bravado of Girls Gone Wild in perspective. Any girl with two boobs and a beer buzz can take her shirt off, but we'd like to see Tina Tube-top tackle a 44-pound Bluecat. Yeah right. And we're especially proud because a handful of the women featured on Girls Gone Grabblin' hail from East Tennessee (the orange shorts with power-Ts on the thigh gave it away).

Pick up your copy of Girls Gone Grabblin' at Gander Mountain or the Bass Pro Shop, or order it online from . â" Leslie Wylie


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