Nancy Drew And The Hidden Staircase: A Step Ahead

Sophia Lillis Detecting Trouble

Nancy Drew and the Hidden Staircase
****
Rating: PG
Stars: Sophia Lillis, Andrea Anders, Linda Lavin
Writers: Nina Fiore and John Herrera
Director: Katt Shea

Captain Marvel may be the most powerful superhero in the Marvelverse, but this screen incarnation of America’s favorite teenaged detective gives us permission to celebrate a world where the only superpowers anyone needs are intelligence, curiosity, compassion and kindness.

Nancy is played with homespun good humor by Sophia Lillis, America’s latest It Girl — which is to say she was the girl in the Stephen King thriller It. After spending her earliest years in the Big City, our hero has been transplanted as her lawyer dad (True Bloodhunk Sam Trammell), still grieving the recent death of Nancy’s mom, sets up shop in the sleepy town of River Heights. 

Actually, the town only seems sleepy. Soon restless Nancy is knee-deep in intrigue, solving the mystery of a seemingly haunted house, owned by an eccentric but lovable former burlesque dancer (Linda Lavin, who we can never get enough of). As a bonus, the weird goings-on might also be linked to the shadowy figures who have been threatening Nancy’s dad over his opposition to a train line plowing through town. 

Don’t look for too many startling twists in Nancy Drew and the Hidden Staircase — the plot faithfully predates the present era’s demands that young adult fiction churn with angst and burn with post-apocalyptic menace. 

That’s a pleasant surprise, especially since director Katt Shea cut her directing teeth in the shop of schlockmeister Roger Corman — where she produced stylish grindhouse fare like Stripped to Kill and the cult horror classic Poison Ivy. What’s more, the film’s co-writers, Nina Fiore and John Herrera, penned the dystopian Hulu series The Handmaid’s Tale. With a touch of irreverence and muted modernism, this unconventional team keeps Nancy Drew and the Hidden Staircaseas breezy as a spring night in a small town, at once smartly contemporary and reassuringly old-fashioned.  

Published by

Bill Newcott

Award-Winning Film Critic, TV Host and Creator of AARP's Movies For Grownups, Bill focuses on movies that have something to say...and a unique way of saying it

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