After 2007’s failed reboot “Nancy Drew” starring Emma Roberts, I was surprised anyone bothered to take the property in to theaters again. Roberts was very good in the role of Nancy Drew, but her take on the character was more self-aware and an homage, rather than a new, more modern approach for a new generation of girls. Thankfully Katt Shea approaches “Nancy Drew and the Hidden Staircase” with the definite desire to restart the series, and Sophia Lillis is now playing the iconic teenage sleuth, and manages to help deliver (co-Produced by Ellen DeGeneres) a satisfying mystery and a very good reboot.
Still getting over the death of his wife, lawyer Carson Drew leaves Chicago and uproots to the small town of River Heights for a new start with his sixteen year old daughter Nancy. Nancy misses the big city life and is finding very little to be excited about, save for getting in to trouble with her best friends George and Bess. When her rival Helen’s grandmother begins to complain about being haunted by ghosts in her home at the Twin Elms Mansion, Nancy volunteers to investigate the strange goings on while also exploring the sordid history of the mansion including its former owners. But not all is at it seems as everyone in town seems to have their own motives for being involved in Nancy’s newest case. Can she solve the mystery before someone gets hurt?
After her stunning debut in “It: Chapter One,” Sophia Lillis has continued impressing and manages to adapt to a more kid friendly role in the iconic heroine. Lillis feels right at home in the skin of Nancy Drew, playing a whole new take that’s very much a teen in the modern world, but has a sense of wit and cunning that helps her stand apart from her pals. Drew is very much a rebel who doesn’t always follow the rules, but writer Nina Fiore also writes her as someone who faces actual consequences, causing her to think twice on every action she makes. When we meet Drew this time, she gets in terrible trouble for helping her best friend, after she’s confronted with harsh online bullying from a local school jock. From this, she jumps to the challenge to defend her in a revenge plot that establishes where this Nancy Drew stands morally.
Lillis seems to be having such a great time as Drew, who not only puts herself in danger to help her loved ones, but seems to have fun doing so with a hear felt, often genuine performance. Lillis looks as if she just understands the idea of Nancy Drew, and the way writer Nina Fiore frames the character streamlines her to where all the basics of the character are kept in tact, while being able to connect with her loyal followers. “Nancy Drew and the Hidden Staircase” garners a strong spirit and fun energy to it to where Nancy is put in peril, while the obstacles she faces is almost never too intense. Once the narrative takes a turn where Nancy faces actual danger, Katt Shea is able to maintain the adventurous tone well.
The mystery sadly tends to take a back seat to Drew’s sleuthing and the side characters developing alongside the new iteration, but Shea does drop us in to classic scenarios her fan base will love. There are secret rooms, hidden stairwells, smoke, ghosts, candle lit book cases, and a huge back drop that may or may not be the cause of the alleged haunting ensuing. “Nancy Drew and the Hidden Staircase” is a fun, and adorable reboot, one that I think fans of the Nancy Drew series will welcome and embrace.
In theaters March 15th from Warner Bros.