ZERO STARS/**** Image C+ Sound A- Extras D+
starring Emma Roberts, Josh Flitter, Max Thieriot, Tate Donovan
screenplay by Andrew Fleming and Tiffany Paulsen
directed by Andrew Fleming
by Walter Chaw Andrew Fleming's Nancy Drew isn't just bad, it's fascinatingly bad. From minute one, it's an example of what happens when nobody knows what the hell is going on and doesn't have the wit to hide it. It suffers from the same malady as Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End in that it's only confusing if you walk into it believing there's something to figure out--but unlike that picture, this one has so little in the way of internal coherence that it's almost a work of surrealism. When teen sleuth Nancy (a fetching yet robotic Emma Roberts) awakens to find herself abducted in an old projection booth, she doesn't panic and search for exits, she stands up, collects her compass (why does anyone need a compass in the middle of Los Angeles? Dunno), and heads straight for a little window that she promptly opens onto a scaffolding, thus enabling her snickersnack escape. It mirrors an earlier scene in which Nancy discovers a letter pivotal to the picture's central mystery stuck in an old book that, as executed, has all the weight and import of every other indecipherable, non-linear, dada scene in the piece. I'm not suggesting, even, that there's no tension in the film, as there's tension galore in trying to follow, much less predict, its astonishing leaps of baffling, shit-headed incongruity. There are no impulses that make sense, no characters with either a toehold in our reality or a justification for their existence (and the only people who might give a damn about Nancy Drew as an institution are too old to see the film on their own and unlikely to take their baffled children, anyway). As a mystery, in the most literal sense, it's possibly the most mysterious film of the year.