Teen detective Nancy Drew solves a twenty-year old mystery of who killed a famous Hollywood actress. Emma Roberts plays Nancy Drew. In a small town, Nancy catches burglars in the act, robbing the church. They take her hostage. She talks them into giving themselves up and will help them negotiate a deal. But they change their minds. She escapes by climbing to the roof of the church and climbing down on a rope she has with her in her bag of sleuthing tools. She goes to California with her father (played by Tate Donovan) He asks her not to do any more detective work while they are in California. Her boyfriend, Ned (played by Max Thieriot) gives her a compass as a going away gift.
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Nancy chose the house, where they will live in Los Angeles, which has a mystery. Twenty years earlier, a famous female movie star, who owned the house, disappeared for awhile, then when she returned she threw a big party, but she did not come downstairs and was later found floating dead in the swimming pool. In Los Angeles, they meet Barbara Barbara (played by Caroline Aaron) of Barbara Barbara Realty who shows them the house. Nancy sees a ghost of the aging actress, but it is only a projection. The house has many booby-traps which give it a haunted theme. There is a strange caretaker named Leshing (played by Marshall Bell). Nancy puts a folder with information about the actress Dehlia Draycott (played by Laura Harring) on her bed with her moccasins. When she turns her back for a brief moment the items are stolen. She tells her father she is calling the police to report the crime so the professionals can take care of it. She waits on hold for an a hour, then the officer laughs at her story and hangs up. Later at night, Nancy hears someone in the house. She calls Leshing. He shows up from his nearby apartment, but way too quickly. She goes to the attic with Leshing, and is followed by her father but they find no one there.
At her new school, Nancy is completely out of place. She is laughed at by the other girls. She is better in class than all of them and easily out runs them on the track. But her fashion sense is outdated so they dislike her. They embarrass her at the school basketball game. At home, Nancy hears mysterious knocking in the house again. Nancy finds a film projection room. She watches outtakes of film footage of the actress performing but not feeling well so they have to stop the filming. Leshing finds Nancy in the film projection room. Leshing tells Nancy he worked for Dehlia at the request of the movie studio. Leshing does not know where Dehlia was when she disappeared. Nancy thinks Dehlia was pregnant when she disappeared.
Nancy makes friends with a boy from school named Corky (played by Josh Flitter). They go together to the movie studio. Nancy meets Bruce Willis on the set. He is impressed by her and offers her as a joke, the chance to help direct his movie. Nancy discovers Dehlia might have gone to a spa called Two Palms outside Los Angeles. She checks the records. Then see gets a clue about children born twenty years ago, during the time when Dehlia could be there. She looks for children who would have been adopted and now are grown up. She meets Jane Brighton (played by Rachel Leigh Cook) who matches the clues and was adopted. She tells Jane, Dehlia might be her birth mother. A car tries to run Nancy and Corky over. Nancy is threatened on the phone to stop her investigation of Dehlia Draycott. Nancy thinks there is a will and there may be money for Jane from the Dehlia's estate. Jane becomes frightened and refuses to speak with Nancy further. Nancy sees Dehlia's ghost in a dream, who gives her a clue where the will is hidden. It is in a Chinese box.
Ned drives Nancy roadster car to California. They go out to lunch together. Ned gets jealous of Corky. Corky teases Ned. Nancy goes to an antique store for Chinese boxes. They search them all for the missing will. They don't find it. When Nancy returns to her car, she finds a bomb. Just in time, she tosses it down a manhole. it explodes. Nancy is knocked to the ground. Ned helps her up. The SUV, which tried to run her over before, is there. They give chase. The SUV runs a red light and gets away.
At the home, they discover a hidden space behind one of the closets containing a secret passageway which leads to the attic. Nancy goes down a ladder. It leads to the basement and to an underground tunnel. It leads to the apartment building of Leshing. Nancy throws a birthday party. The party gets out of control. Nancy saves a girl who passes out from a peanut allergy. Nancy's dad comes home and he is happy to hear she threw a wild party like a normal teenager. Jane shows up. She is frightened. She tells Nancy she was threatened by a man who said if Jane tells anyone she is Dehlia's daughter she will regret it. Jane is being threatened by a guy with one blue eye and one brown eye. Nancy finds a clue in one of Dehlia's old movies how to find the will in a hidden place in the Chinese box Nancy finds the will. The will leaves everything to Dehlia's daughter Jane. After leaving the Chinese store, Nancy is kidnapped. She is held hostage in an old movie theater. She escapes and the will with her. She runs away with it. She gets in her roadster. The bad guys chase her in the SUV. They crash into her car. Nancy's father is working with Mr. Biedermeyer (played by Barry Bostwick) who was the attorney for Dehlia's estate. Mr. Biedermeyer is the bad guy. Nancy escapes. She calls the police. Mr. Biedermeyer tells Nancy he is the one who killed Dehlia. He tells her, Leshing was the father of the baby who is now the young woman named June. Mr. Biedermeyer and his goons try to kill Nancy, but are stopped by Leshing who saves her. Nancy tells Leshing Jane is his daughter. Nancy has a recording of Mr. Biedermeyer admitting he was the one who murdered Dehlia. The police arrive. They arrest all the bad guys. Jane gets the house and all her mother's estate. Jane and Leshing turn it into a home for unwed mothers. Back in the small town once again, Ned fixes Nancy's roadster and they kiss.
Best part of story, including ending:
This story is a great update on the classic Nancy Drew mystery stories from the books.
Best scene in story:
I like the scene when Nancy finds the secret passageway in the big mansion, because every big mansion needs to have secret passageways to be interesting.
Opinion about the main character:
Nancy tries her best to give up sleuthing at the request of her father, but finds she is not able to give it up. Her reasoning is sweet because she is really trying to help the other young woman named Jane discover the truth abour her birth mother.