Various television and film adaptations of the tales of Nancy Drew — a sleuth introduced in 1930 as a counterpart to the Hardy Boys — have been produced since 1938.
Recent offerings have featured Pamela Sue Martin, Emma Roberts, Tracy Ryan and Maggie Lawson in the title role.
Now Sophia Lillis has stepped into the character’s shoes.
Best known for her work in “It,” she stars in “Nancy Drew and the Hidden Staircase,” based on the second book in the mystery series.
After the death of his wife, Carson Drew (Sam Trammell) moves with his daughter (Lillis) from the excitement of Chicago to a peaceful existence in the small city of River Heights.
With Nancy, excitement can be found anywhere. When she learns that a local woman (Linda Lavin) is dealing with ghosts in her house, Nancy must find the logical reason behind floating lights, mysterious creatures and a house that comes to life.
Help comes from her two new friends (Mackenzie Graham, Zoe Renee) and her new frenemy, Helen (Laura Slade Wiggins).
It’s time to look at the clues and decide if this latest incarnation of Nancy Drew is a worthy addition to the character’s long screen legacy.
Let’s start with Nancy Drew herself. In all the other incarnations, Drew has been played with a massive curiosity spurred on by her spunky nature.
Lillis brings the same curiosity, and she’s definitely not short of spunk. What makes this Nancy different is a little more of a tomboy element, and Lillis plays the role with almost a mischievous quality.
Nancy’s not perfect and spends a lot of time dealing with local law, but the antihero approach makes her a strong role model as she is brave, smart and funny even in the face of danger.
Where “Nancy Drew and the Hidden Staircase” has its problems is with the writing.
The script incorporates many elements from the book, including a key plot point built around a railroad.
The problems pop up with shortcuts or write-arounds that make no sense. It turns a fun mystery into a writing blunder not worthy of association with the series.
Even with that major miscue, though, “Nancy Drew and the Hidden Staircase” works well for its target audience.
It shows anyone can stand up to peer pressure, bullying or even a ghost if they are smart and strong enough.