Emma Roberts, niece to Julia plays an interesting Nancy Drew - she has the confidence and fearlessness so well presented by Bonita Granville in a number of Nancy Drew mystery films in the late thirties and early forties. Granville was joined by Frankie Thomas who later played Tom Corbit, Space Cadet on television. "The Hidden Staircase" probably is the best known and most interesting episode from the past films, it is the one in which the heroine helps two old ladies deal with a haunted old mansion.
This Nancy Drew also has a hidden staircase along with an interesting plot revolving around an actress Dehlia Draycott (Laura Harring seen in flashbacks) and who might be her next of kin. Lawyer Dashiel Biedermeyer (Barry Bostwick) helps Nancy's father but is not in tune with the caretaker played by (Marshall Bell) who constantly appears in scary situations.
But while the mystery boils, we are forced to watch another mean girl episode in which Inga and Trish work at tormenting Nancy, the new girl in a California school. Drew handles the two with confidence feeling comfortable in penny loafers and knee socks in contrast to the patched together style of the time and place. While her heart remains back home in River Heights, her blue Nash Metropolitan fits right in as it did in Clueless.
Josh Flitter plays Corky, sort of a sidekick but is no where as effective as he was as the caddy in The Greatest Game Ever Played. Running up to Griffith Park to slip away from marauding SUVs clues us in to the fact she is on the right track in the mystery, but it adds nothing to the intrigue that the books and old films allowed the reader and viewer to dwell in.
Pat Carroll and Bruce Willis make appearances and Rachael Leigh Cook is Jane Brighton the focal point of the forty year old mystery but is hardly on the screen sufficient time.
Nancy Drew is a young sleuth not a change agent for arrogant spoiled mean girls. Too bad writers Andrew Fleming and Tiffany Paulsen couldn't figure that out - they should have watch Bonita Granville or read the books.