Adapting classic children's books for film is risky: If the movie violates the spirit of the book—and it usually does—it's hard not to feel angry and betrayed (see: Bridge to Terabithia). Thank god, though, that Nancy Drew gets it right—I don't think I could've handled seeing Hollywood crap all over yet another one of my childhood memories.
The smartest thing about this Nancy Drew is in the way the iconic aspects of the original character are preserved: Emma Roberts' Nancy wears loafers and cardigans, has impeccable manners, and—of course—drives a little blue roadster. When she moves to Los Angeles from her small hometown in "one of those fly-over states" (as one character puts it), her manners, '50s fashion, and general niceness distinguish her from her stereotypical Gen Y classmates. Mercifully, though, we are spared any makeover scenes: Nancy never compromises herself or tries to fit in, she just keeps doing her girl detective thing, whether other people like it or not. And sure, she's a little prim and fussy—but for a chick invented in 1930, she's not doing half bad.
The mystery here involves a dead movie star and a long-lost will. And sure, while Nancy promised her father that she'd give up sleuthing, the mystery turns up in her very own house—meaning her curiosity (and her nagging "hunches") can't leave well enough alone. Helping hold the flashlight is chubby sidekick Corky (Josh Flitter), who's about three feet tall and provides a sassy comic foil to the straight-laced Nancy.
While the film is hardly perfect—the saccharine ending feels tacked on, and some of the songs in the soundtrack are simply unforgivable—for the most part, Nancy Drew's an intelligent, gently humorous update of the beloved books. Director Andrew Fleming does well to keep Nancy removed from the pop-culture milieu: The Hollywood setting and movie star mystery lend an element of glamour and timelessness to what could have, in other hands, been an overly teen-centric film. Fans of the books will appreciate this affectionate homage to the girl detective—every time Nancy stumbles on a secret passageway, or is introduced to a "sinister groundskeeper," it's with a knowing wink that in no way interferes with the fun of it all.