One of my favorite genres, or subgenres or sub-subgenres or whatever, is that of the kid detective. Although they populate books and comics in abundance, we rarely get to see any good ones on screen. I don’t know why that is, really. Kids, even though they hate going to school every morning, are constantly learning. Kids are always trying to figure out how the world works. So it’s only natural that a kid would fit into a detective role, because that’s also what detectives do—they figure stuff out. Movies and TV shows about kid detectives are a mixed bag, though. The Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew sometimes come across as stodgy and uncool, Young Sherlock Holmes was more a riff on Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom than it was a mystery, and the attempts at filming Encyclopedia Brown’s adventures are best left forgotten. Trust me.
Roxy Hunter and the Mystery of the Moody Ghost is the first of four movies in this new franchise coming out this year from Nickelodeon. Roxy (Aria Wallace) is a 9-year-old self-described “super sleuth,” who’s recently moved from New York City to Serenity Falls, a peaceful small town, with her mother Susan (Robin Brule) and her best friend Max (Demetrius Joyette), who lives with them while his archaeologist parents are globe-hopping. Roxy believes her new house is haunted. While investigating clues as to who this ghost might be, Roxy eventually uncovers a secret that threatens the entire town.
All I wanted was a fair-to-good kid detective story; one that could hopefully breathe some new life into the genre, at least as far as Hollywood is concerned. Instead, I got one of the most tedious, tiresome, bland, and uninteresting kids’ movies I’ve ever seen.
When the actors aren’t being unnecessarily loud and annoying, they’re being more wooden than an Ent. As Roxy, Aria Wallace is by the far the biggest offender here. I know it’s normally not cool to rip on a child actor’s performance because, you know, she’s just a little girl. But in this case? Roxy is an obnoxious brat, and she remains an obnoxious brat throughout the entire movie. I swear, if that little girl had complained about something being “unfair,” one more time, I would have thrown my complete collection of E.W. Hildick’s McGurk Mysteries through the screen. Not only that, but Wallace blurted out most of her lines so fast that I couldn’t understand a word she said. When Roxy said, “Shoot!” she said it so fast that it sounded like, uh, another word.
But, honestly, Wallace isn’t really to blame for her bad performance. The writer should have thought, “Maybe I should make this kid a little more likable instead of having her whine about everything all the time.” And then the director should have thought, “Maybe I should instruct this child actor to enunciate and tone it down a little.” They’re the ones to blame for all this.
Get this: There’s a slapstick gag early on where someone forgets and leaves the top off of a blender, so its contents go flying all over the kitchen when its turned on, creating a mess. This is the type of silliness seen in a lot of kid movies, so that’s no problem. It’s just that somebody decided that the goop flying out of the blender would be better if it was CGI. So there’s an obvious digital effect of goop flying all over the kitchen, and in the very next shot, the kitchen is spotless as Roxy’s mom frets over the “mess.” Again, I wonder how these decisions are made.
I could go on and on. There’s the obviousness of the mystery, Roxy’s truly frightening sense of fashion, the romantic subplot with Roxy’s mom that’s so bland it makes the mildest romantic comedies look like Robocop, and so on. I think you get the idea.
There were no immediate flaws to be seen in the picture quality. The 5.1 sound doesn’t help the actors’ mumbly dialogue, but it nicely shows off Nathan Furst’s Danny Elfman-inspired score. There’s a surprising amount of extras, including two featurettes that make the movie look more exciting than it is. This is followed by two music videos of songs by Aria Wallace—they’re really trying to turn her into a superstar, aren’t they? Then there are some deleted scenes, bloopers, audition footage, and a bunch of Easter eggs, renamed “magnifying glasses” for this disc. Also, the DVD comes with “Roxy’s Rocks,” which are these little bead-like things that you can use to decorate your cell phone and be the coolest (or most laughed-at) kid in school.