Cast: Sophia Lillis, Zoe Renee, Mackenzie Graham, Lauren Slade Wiggins
Director: Katt Shea
This is yet another case in early 2019 of a movie being made without any sort of target audience. There was no demand for this movie in the first place and I’m not quite sure why it was pushed forward. If you asked younger audiences what they wanted to see this year with Dumbo, Missing Link, Toy Story 4, The Lion King, and Frozen 2 all being released at some point this year, I’m not too sure how many people would pick Nancy Drew and the Hidden Staircase over these movies. Do kids still know who Nancy Drew is? What other kids stories from the last century will we be adapting this year? Are we getting a Hardy Boys or Encyclopedia Brown movie anytime soon? Maybe I’m out of touch with the youth of today, but I just don’t think they care about these stories anymore. As to how this movie turned out, it’s very run of the mill and does what it needs to do. Lillis is good in the leading role, but outside of that the film follows all the basic filmmaking rules while depicting a character who plays by her own.
The film follows Nancy Drew (Lillis), a creative, intelligent teenager who likes solving mysteries even if it means getting into a little bit of trouble along the way. When she overhears an elderly woman claim that her house is haunted, Nancy makes it her mission to uncover the truth and finds herself in a situation much deeper than she ever anticipated. For the most part, this movie does everything in its power to make sure that it is as benevolent as possible. You can see every detail of this movie coming from a mile away and you probably don’t even need to watch it to know everything that happens in the movie. I know this movie is intended for younger audiences, but you have to do something unique to keep the audience captivated. It doesn’t necessarily do anything wrong, but it’s the lack of any sort of true effort that derails this movie from being spectacular. The only thing this movie did exceptionally well was the casting of Lillis in the lead role. When I envision how Nancy Drew would look and act like in the real world, Lillis is almost the exact person I would think of. She has a natural charm and charisma about her that can only be emulated by a character like Nancy Drew. Based on the rest of the movie, it seems like a relatively good performance was wasted on mediocre material. If this movie wanted to be seen by a wider audience, it probably should’ve been sent straight to Netflix. While not a necessarily a bad movie, I have a hard time believing parents will justify spending money to see this movie when there are a plethora of options coming out later in the year. With the Netflix option, I believe this film could’ve reached by much more people and probably would be well-received by its intended audience. Instead, Nancy Drew and the Hidden Staircase will end up as a forgettable, average movie that you can pick up in the bargain bin at Wal-Mart in a few months.
Overall, the fact that this wasn’t an absolute trainwreck shows that there’s still some level of hope for movies like this. It just baffles me that a Nancy Drew movie is coming out in 2019, when the source material suits it better for a 1949 release but the style and tone are more fit for a 1999 release. Either way, Nancy Drew and the Hidden Staircase won’t really give you anything spectacular, but Lillis is enough to keep the film moving along as she continues to develop her budding career.
Overall Score: 6/10