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Reviews: A supersleuth rebooted in ‘Nancy Drew and the Hidden Staircase,’ ‘Superpower Dogs’ and ‘Bruce!!!!’

Reviews: A supersleuth rebooted in ‘Nancy Drew and the Hidden Staircase,’ ‘Superpower Dogs’ and ‘Bruce!!!!’
Laura Wiggins, left, and Sophia Lillis in the movie "Nancy Drew and the Hidden Staircase." (Warner Bros. Entertainment)

‘Nancy Drew and the Hidden Staircase’

Introduced riding a skateboard in ripped jeans, the young heroine here is not your grandmother’s girl detective. But while “Nancy Drew and the Hidden Staircase” updates the 16-year-old sleuth to the 21st century smart ways, this version of Nancy Drew should please kids as well as their parents who grew up reading her adventures.

Nancy (Sophia Lillis) and her father, Carson (Sam Trammell), are new to River Heights, but they’re already making an impact on the quiet town. A lawyer, he’s fighting a train coming to the village, while she’s solving who’s behind the cyber bullying of her BFF Bess (Mackenzie Graham) with the help of another pal, George (Zoe Renee). Soon the quirky Flora (Linda Lavin) hires her to investigate her house, which seems to be haunted by ghosts.

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Director Katt Shea ably makes the transition from more adult fare like “The Rage: Carrie 2” and “Poison Ivy,” though the film works better in its comedic moments than the mystery scenes. The script from Nina Fiore and John Herrera smartly answers previous criticism of the old-school series’ handling of class and race, but it still remains true to what made Nancy appeal to generations of readers. As played by “It” standout Lillis, Nancy is smart, independent and loyal, and it’s easy to see how she’ll charm a new generation of viewers — and hopefully readers.

— Kimber Myers

‘Nancy Drew and the Hidden Staircase’

Rated: PG, for peril, suggestive material, thematic elements and language

Running time: 1 hour, 29 minutes

Playing: In general release

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‘Superpower Dogs’

Ricochet, a golden retriever, is a veteran therapy dog and the first ever to surf with children with special needs and veterans with PTSD, in the documentary "Superpower Dogs."
Ricochet, a golden retriever, is a veteran therapy dog and the first ever to surf with children with special needs and veterans with PTSD, in the documentary "Superpower Dogs." (Danny Wilcox Frazier / IMAX/ Cosmic Picture Limited)

“Superpower Dogs,” the new 3-D Imax documentary at the California Science Center, throws a bone to dog lovers in conjunction with an interactive exhibit.

Narrated by noted enthusiast Chris (Captain America) Evans, the film introduces a number of canines working with humans to rescue people and endangered species. They employ their special abilities on mountains, at sea, in rubble after disasters, and even in cases of emotional peril. Lead dog Halo goes from runt of her litter to aspiring heroine in an elite rescue training course, with a human who goes by “Cat.” The Dutch shepherd must overcome her natural inclinations toward distraction to focus on her task of finding disaster victims.

Another star is Ricochet, a surfing golden retriever providing emotional support to humans, including special-needs children and a veteran haunted by wartime experiences. Kids will be “Awww”-ing at the dogs’ shows of affection toward their humans.

“Superpower Dogs” leans heavily on reenactments and demonstrations. As it’s aimed at young audiences — Evans’ narration is presented as the voice of mountain-rescue dog Henry — it’s light on the science and heavy on the action. For those interested in dogs’ biology and history, there’s the exhibit “Dogs! A Science Tail” (separate admission, but combined tickets discounted). It includes the trivia game “Jeopawdy” and a chance for kids to measure their speed against several dog breeds and one very fast human. Spoiler alert: Usain Bolt tops out at 28 mph; greyhounds hit 44 mph. There are also live demonstrations with highly trained dogs showing off their skills as seeing-eye companions, police or fire-and-rescue team members, or therapy animals.

All dogs in question are, in fact, good.

— Michael Ordoña

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Rated: G

Running time: 45 minutes

Playing: Starts March 16, California Science Center and Imax Theater, Los Angeles

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‘Bruce!!!!’

Eden Marryshow and Mlé Chester in the movie "Bruce!!!!"
Eden Marryshow and Mlé Chester in the movie "Bruce!!!!" (Juan Carlos Borrero)

At least you can’t say you weren’t forewarned by those capital letters and exclamation points on the poster — “Bruce!!!!,” a lead-footed comedy by first-time feature filmmaker Eden Marryshow turns out to be about as pleasant and understated as its abrasive, attention-grabbing title.

As directed, co-written and portrayed by Marryshow, the Bruce in question is a scheming, 30-something slacker of a first-class jerk who has thus far managed to squeak by on the seemingly inexhaustible patience and goodwill he has wrung out of his family members and a succession of taken-for-granted girlfriends.

When his buddy Greg (Jason Tottenham) abruptly moves out of their high-end Brooklyn apartment (with its own washer and dryer and recessed lighting!) to start a new life with his pregnant fiancée (Jade Eshete), aspiring actor Bruce auditions prospective, preferably hot female roommates, ultimately selecting and falling head over heels for the lovely Kiera (Mlé Chester).

Could he really be on the threshold of turning over a new leaf, despite making her pay 80% of the monthly rent?

Unfortunately Marryshow, in his various capacities, has neglected to instill his terminally obnoxious character with a vital shred of audience empathy, let alone to provide sufficient comedic beats that would have better engaged his thoughtfully diverse cast.

As a result, in the absence of something funnier or more appealing and despite the character being handed an obligatory, last-minute shot at redemption, “Bruce!!!!” proves stubbornly irredeemable.

— Michael Rechtshaffen

‘Bruce!!!!’

Not rated

Running time: 1 hour, 43 minutes

Playing: Starts March 15, AMC Citywalk 19, Universal City

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