Stack Up: ‘Nancy Drew and the Hidden Staircase’

How does the film stack up to the book?

The film brings the teen detective into the present day.
PATRICK ULLMER | Photo Courtesy

When it comes to mystery stories for young adults, few figures are as prominently celebrated as Nancy Drew. Today, I will be covering one of Ms. Drew’s more recognizable adventures, “Nancy Drew and the Hidden Staircase” written by Carolyn Keene and last year’s film adaption of the same title.

The book

Far be it from me to condemn a book without reading it (unless it’s written by James Patterson), I was skeptical about this as a next project. But considering I read “The Exorcist” twice and watched the film adaption three times, I need some serious cheering up now, and I must say, this book helped.

“The Hidden Staircase” is the second book of the long-running series, which involves young adult Nancy Drew investigating strange hauntings taking place in the house of her friend’s great aunt.

While investigating the estate, she realizes corrupt businessman Nathan Gomber is trying to strong-arm the estate for his own goals of setting up a train station. The plot then takes a darker turn when her father is kidnapped.

Among the hauntings that take place, including the ghostly intruder standing in front of a window wearing a gorilla mask (bringing new meaning to the phrase “monkey shining”), stealing food and listening to the radio (which is probably the only thing I would do if I were a ghost).

Nevertheless, I listened to the audiobook and enjoyed it much more than I thought I would. It was a swift read with plenty of intrigue, but also fun. Nancy and her friends as well as the strengths and friendship they share greatly relieved the tension.

At one point, Nancy says a great statement, which I think belongs on a motivation poster, “One thing’s for sure, work is the best antidote for worry” (which might be why I still contribute to the Spectrum).

Upon finishing the audiobook, I was shocked to find it had been read by Laura Linney, the most beautiful actress alive. How the overrated Julia Roberts has been named “most beautiful woman in the world” five times instead of Linney is a real mystery I think needs solving.

The film

The first time in this millennium Nancy Drew graced the silver screen was in the 2007 film “Nancy Drew” starring Emma Rob…(yawn)…Roberts and…Sorry, I thought I was mentioning something memorable. I guess not.

Released last year, this film stars Sophia Lillis as Drew, an actress perhaps best know for appearing in the latest “It” films, which I will not cover since the children constantly curse, and a book I will never read because they do something worse.

Yes, that was a rhyme, because I’m in a pretty good mood this time. (That was a reference to “The Princess Bride” by the way, and don’t worry that book and film will have their day.)

Anyways, like the book, I was not looking forward to this film adaption. It was available and I was like, “Oh. Cool. Who asked for this?”

After watching this film…eh, it’s okay. Modernizing a character from the late 30s could be a bit jarring to fans of the original character. Here we see Nancy as a redheaded prankster who wears knee-less jeans and rides a skateboard unlike her blonde, skirt-wearing literary counterpart.

There is a lot of discussion on the presence of social media platforms in the film, which made me wonder how a modernized Sherlock Holmes would look checking Facebook (still would look better than him smoking cocaine to think clearer as in his books).

Among this film’s other adaptations include the villain giving the victims in the household terrifying hallucinations using nutmeg. Aha, I knew nutmeg was Scarecrow’s secret ingredient for his fear toxin in “Batman Begins.”

A few gripes include some strange teen girl dialogue like, “We don’t eat traitor cake” (but then again, I’m not a teenage girl, so ignore me), as well as a poorly executed fake yawn meant to look genuine, making my fake yawns in this article sound more authentic.

Nevertheless, a fun family venture- just poorly marketed. (Be honest, how many of you knew this existed before I told you?)

The victor

I prefer the storytelling of the book over the film, which is not bad at all, just (yawn) not that memorable.

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