First appearing in 1930, generations of girls have followed the adventures of teenaged sleuth, Nancy Drew. Evolving with the times, and changes in American culture and taste, a line of books featuring the heroine has been in constant publication for nearly ninety years. Smart, and tenacious, the young detective regularly solves cases the police have given up on. Anyone who’s read any of the books knows that Nancy Drew never takes no as an answer!
Given the success of the books, Nancy Drew has been recreated (with varying degrees of success) on both television and in film. I was a big fan of The Hardy Boys/Nancy Drew Mysteries. Running for just two seasons beginning in 1977, the series alternated Nancy’s adventures week-to-week with The Hardy Boys. There have also been various attempts at film franchises. The last, starring Emma Roberts as the titular character appeared in 2007. As perky as Roberts’ interpretation was, hers was a one-and-done portrayal.
The latest film, Nancy Drew and the Hidden Staircase, produced by Ellen DeGeneres, is a remake of the 1939 film of the same name. The original starred Bonita Granville in the title role. This remake stars Sophia Lillis, best known for her role as Beverly Marsh in the 2017 horror film It. A modern girl, Nancy gets around on her skateboard, and navigates the dark by the flashlight on her iPhone.
Here, isn’t too thrilled that her widower father (True Blood’s Sam Trammell) decided to move them from Chicago to the supposedly tranquil River Heights. Nonetheless, Nancy makes fast friends with brainy Bess Marvin (MacKenzie Graham), and industrious Georgia “George” Fayne (Zoe Renee). So, when Bess falls victim to a popular jocks (Evan Castello) cyber-bulling, Nancy Drew makes it her mission to him a lesson!
Not only does the prank get her in trouble, but it creates problems with Derek’s girlfriend Helen (Laura Wiggins) who’s trying to help her aunt Flora (Linda Lavin, Alice) deal with a possible haunting of her…eccentric property. Though her friends are skeptical of Helen, Nancy, intrigued by the possibilities, agrees to investigate the situation. Whether all of this has anything to do with corporate interests wanting to put a train stop in their pretty, small town, we’ll have to wait and see.
Director Katt Shea Strikes a good balance between Nancy Drew’s crime fighting spirting evident in the original book, and contemporary attitudes. While the cyber-bulling plot goes on a bit too long, screenwriters Nina Fiore and John Herrera have delivered a positive story for Young women about the importance of friendship and the benefits of avoiding peer pressure. Nancy Drew and the Hidden Staircase is perfect for nostalgic fans, and age appropriate for youngsters who like a mystery.
Originally shot digitally in 1.85:1, Warner Bros. presents the film in the 1.78 :1 aspect ratio. The entire film has a rather glossy look, with particularly vibrant exteriors and appropriately lit interiors. The white levels are a tad high, making skin tones appear somewhat pale. The film’s slightly soft look makes facial details less sharp than expected.
The 5.1 DTS-HD MA soundtrack is particularly front heavy. The surrounds kick in when the score comes into play, but otherwise, everything tends to be pushed to the fronts. The low end gets some activity from pop tunes used on the track, and there are some fleeting “haunting” sounds, but the track doesn’t really take advantage of the entire soundscape. Dialogue is clean, clear and concise throughout.
English SDH subtitles are included.
The following extras are available:
- A Sleuth, A Girl, And An Inspiration (HD, 8:58) A standard behind-the-scenes look at the making of the film with various members of the cast and crew.
- Pink Footprints, Touring Twin Elms (HD, 4:44) Linda Lavin gives a tour of the “haunted” house used in the film.
- Gag Reel (HD, 3:13) A brief look at the flubs, goofs, etc. that took place during filming.
- Digital HD
Nancy Drew and the Hidden Staircase (2019)
Movie title: Nancy Drew and the Hidden Staircase
Director(s): Katt Shea
Actor(s): Sophia Lillis , Linda Lavin , Sam Trammell
Genre: Mystery, Drama, Crime