Yup, apparently there’s a new one. Nancy Drew and the Hidden Staircase (2019).
First off — Nancy steals Trixie Belden’s hairstyle and hair color. Seriously. It’s glaringly obvious. Nancy Drew once had blonde hair, and then later had “Titian hair,” but she was never a straight-up redhead like Trixie. She also never had short hair — that was left to others.
Of course, if that’s the actress’ natural hair, fine. (Apparently she’s actually a very light sandy blonde in her publicity photos, so probably not. Her hair used to be ultra-short, so I guess Trixie Belden was as far as her hair managed to grow.) But the hairstyle is truly an exact copy of Trixie Belden’s, and it looks weird on a Nancy Drew. Makes a good Trixie Belden bookcover, though.
Secondly, it’s co-produced by Ellen DeGeneres. So yeah… there’s that. Nothing obviously weird has been added, though.
Thirdly, I’ve seen reviews claiming that the movie’s pretty harmless-to-good, but it also seems pretty dumb.
I mean, on the one hand, they’ve resurrected Nancy Drew’s older, gossipy party girl friend from the early books, Helen Corning. (And since Helen ends up happily married to a nice worthy hunk, it’s an interesting part for a modern actress to play.) But what is her personality now? No clue from the review. I thought she would turn out to be Nancy’s black friend on the poster, but apparently she’s the blonde chick standing in front, bossing the other two around. Helen is not even Nancy’s friend; she’s a Mean Girl who’s also the steady of the movie’s Mean Boy. And yet, they team up, because somehow this will provide an Important Lesson.
The lesson is that older series heroines didn’t bother trying to make friends with Mean Girls. It was for them to learn Important Lessons, and for the heroine to keep trucking.
Nancy’s closer friends, the cousins Georgina “George” Fayne and Bess Marvin, are also in the flick. Nancy and the other two are pretty much a classic trio, like Kirk, Spock, and McCoy, where each of the secondary characters expresses facets of the primary character in a more pronounced way. Nancy likes clothes and makeup and feminine stuff and boys, but Bess is boy-crazy, ultra-feminine, a little shy with strangers but happy to socialize, pudgy and not very athletic, and very good at housework and gourmet cooking. Nancy is a little bit of a sports and action girl, but George is crazy about sports, skinny and strong, needs a total jock boyfriend to keep up with her, drives like a maniac, and has no patience with most feminine graces. She’s a blonde, and George is a brunette.
So now George is an African-American girl with a big hair hairstyle that definitely would take a lot of time and styling. I’m not saying that she couldn’t be Bess’ cousin, and I’d actually praise the movie if she were. But, yeah, instead she is big into social media, which is somehow easily confused with being “tech savvy.” Apparently she has all of Bess’ personality traits, and yet she is named George; whereas Bess is sort of a non-action girl George.
Except Bess is braided and mousy, even though she also wears athletic clothes all the time. Yeah. Also, Bess has been transformed into a science geek. Okay, a chemistry geek, but come on. And her friends give her a sexy makeover with super-tight clothing. Not Bess making over Nancy or George, mind you. Nooo. And Bess, one of the most popular girls in school, is a social outcast now. Uh huh. But she still worries about loving food too much! Yes, let’s cut every other piece of legit Bess characterization, and leave a skinny actress being worried about turning pudgy or getting acne!
None of the reviewers comment much on these major changes. (The female reviewers mostly don’t seem to be familiar with Nancy Drew at all, although one of them does notice the callback about Bess and food.)
Nancy’s mom just died, which isn’t the worst decision in the world. If you have to have soapy drama, then at least that has something to do with the characters. But really, her mom died when she was either 10 (older books) or 3 (newer books).
Nancy is not from River Heights, which is dumb. She and her dad have just moved there from Chicago, and River Heights (a good-sized city) is all booooring, unlike living in the murder capital of America. (Except she wouldn’t have lived there; she would have lived in a suburb somewhere.) Needless to say, Nancy does not have a recognizable Chicago accent.
Nancy’s dad (who somehow is magically already a district attorney in this new town) is about five years older than the actress playing Nancy. And he’s not a crimefighter. Nooo, he’s got bigger game — there’s an evil train company trying to expand their rails into River Heights! How dare they! Yup, he’s been hired to fight industry on the taxpayer dollar, and he’s going to do it.
But liberals love light rail, right?
And his new boss is Nancy’s godfather, but that’s totally not the same as nepotism. (And they’re not Catholic or anything icky like that.)
The Drew’s motherly, high side of middle age housekeeper, Hannah Gruen, is maybe five years older than Nancy’s dad. And gorgeous. Because that’s who you cast as a motherly housekeeper. Yeah. But don’t worry! She’s no longer a highly paid household professional — she’s a paternal aunt, and she’s doing the housework for free, and then running off to work another job! Because that’s feminist!
Also, one of the main friendly adult characters in this movie is an ex-stripper who claims to have multiple current lovers. Because that’s all feminist and family-friendly and stuff. Yeah. Amusingly, she is the Mean Girl’s great-aunt, so at least there is some tiny little connection going on.
Also, Nancy and her pals’ first caper amounts to stalking. Revenge stalking. Okay, justified revenge stalking of a cyber-bully, culminating in a funny but harmless prank, but seriously? In our time and place? Even if you have the kids reprimanded, how is that right?
And then, they actually go through the juvenile justice system and are sentenced to community service? Seriously? How is that right, either?
Also, Nancy doesn’t just restrict herself to the odd picking of locks with a bobbypin. Nope, she straight-up steals a car. Not a villain car, to escape kidnapping. Nope, she apparently steals a car and goes driving without a license, because that’s what you do if you need to get somewhere. And the movie tells kids all about getting high off nutmeg.
But other than all of that, the movie is reasonably family-friendly and wholesome. Or so the reviews say. I don’t really trust the reviewers at this point.
The good news is that the actress playing Nancy seems to be very winning. So maybe the next movie will be better, although they rarely are.
So yeah… not really feeling the need to connect with my old friend Nancy. Sounds like she’s still hanging out in her books. The movie’s also only being released in big city markets right now, so there’s no point taking an interest.