Not Much Mystery in Nancy Drew and the Hidden Staircase

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Nancy Drew and the Hidden Staircase

Carolyn Keene's girl detective is getting another shot at live action adaptation, this time coming to the screen with the help of IT girl, SOPHIA LILLIS as the titular Nancy Drew.

Nancy lives in a small town, having moved there from Chicago with her father, attorney Carson Drew (TRUE BLOOD's SAM TRAMMELL), following the death of her mother. She's a tomboy with a penchant for getting into trouble due to her sense of vigilante justice (which ranges from dying a bully blue to actual breaking and entering).

Despite her short time in town, she's made some friends in plucky George Fayne (ZOE RENEE) and scientific genius Bess Marvin (MACKENZIE GRAHAM). She's also made an enemy in rich girl Helen Corning (LAURA WIGGINS), the girlfriend of said bully-turned-blue.

The "Hidden Staircase" of the film is found fairly early on, when Nancy jumps at a chance to investigate ghost activity at Helen's aunt's house. Flora (LINDA LAVIN, ALICE) is an eccentric lady who paints her lawn pink -- making it easy for criminals to leave behind footprints -- and a house full of knick-knacks and beads. The ghostly activity goes beyond opening doors and popping lights, however, into truly frightening visions, blackouts, and hangovers upon awakening.

So here's the thing: The trope is the old fashioned "the train is going to come to town, but some people don't want it and they're being strong-armed into selling their properties." It's your basic Snidely Whiplash, with the villain made evident early in the film and every obstacle overcome by spunk and girl crew power.

NANCY DREW AND THE HIDDEN STAIRCASE is geared toward the same audience as your basic SCOOBY-DOO cartoon. There's not much in the way of thinking to be done here, and the mystery is one that solves itself just by the principal characters being in the right places at the right times. But for young viewers, it's an admissable way to introduce them to the world of the books.

Grade: 
3.5 / 5.0