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My 11-year-old daughter and I watched the video of Harriet the Spy last
night. I found the story a bit slow to get going, but my daughter loved it.
Once the plot finally kicks in (Harriet alienates her friends when they
read the "truth" about them in her secret diary), it is well-developed and
very "real". The resolution is satisfying without getting too soppy. The
young actors are all superb, and the quick-cut editing gives it quite a pacy
feel that my daughter really responded to.
My favourite scene was the cat man in "Birdland"--good enough we rewound the tape for my husband (a jazz fan) to watch the scene.
One oddity my daughter and I both puzzled over... After Harriet's parents confiscate her diary, she is seen destroying it in her room, and later her parents return it to her intact. It seemed to us like that middle scene was intended to be cut, but got put in anyway.
I gave this film 8/10 from a "family viewing" and "production quality" aspect. My daughter gave it a thumbs-up 10/10, and she doesn't do that very often. If she's the target audience, and I presume she is, the film-makers got this one right on the nose.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I grew up being forced to watch this film, quite simply because my
siblings adored it and I ended up having to watch it with them whether
I like it or not.
Now the story is simple and straight foreward- a young girl spies on other people and writes about their flaws in a notebook she carries with her everywhere but her fun in spying is soon foiled when the other kids read the notebook and thus begin to lash out onto her. The class gets their revenge on her and she gets revenge back and she ends up apologizing for her actions.
Even when I was like eight or nine when I first saw the film, I never felt bad for Harriet. Why? Simply because this definitely was not a victim-less situation where "oh, poor Harriet everyone is picking on her; let's pity her!" comes to mind. Heck no, in fact I ended up feeling more sorry for some of the people she got back at. Sure, the bullies were harsh but what she did was over the line. I didn't even feel sorry for her in the first place because she had it coming the entire time that she was spying, writing notes in her book and writing rather negative conclusions about other people. Had it not been for her "greater than thou" attitude, I would have appreciated the story a lot better.
Speaking of her "greater than thou" attitude, am I the only one who was always bothered by her revenge scene? She simply could've been the bigger person to actually realize that her nosey habits and attitude were the problem, not just other people. However, no, we follow a rather immature brat who instead of taking responsibility goes as far as using verbal abuse and cutting off someone's long braid off for her own petty "revenge"; even though she was asking for it the moment she chose to bring the book everywhere.
If I had seen this movie on its own, I would probably have no strong opinion of it. I can see how children would like it, and it's not "bad" in and of itself. However, as an adaptation of my favorite book from childhood, it's very disappointing, and that's why I rate it as I do. Perhaps "Harriet the Spy" was never suited for updating to the late 20th century. And it's a difficult thing to adapt to film, since so much of the text takes place inside Harriet's head and in the pages of her notebook. This book and I are about the same age and I'd like to see it done again as a period piece, with more attention paid to casting and less to the swirly 1990's camera work. It's simple: look at the author's illustrations in the book, and find actors who look like that. Eartha Kitt can be wonderful, but she's no Agatha Plummer what about Angela Lansbury? Or Rue McClanahan? The worst choice of all was Rosie O'Donnell as Ole Golly. (To indulge in a little fantasy casting, I'd love to have seen the late Nancy Kulp as Ole Golly; I think she would have done a wonderful job.) Oh well. It is what it is, and your mileage will vary. I don't think Louise Fitzhugh would have been pleased, and I know I wasn't.
Harriet M. Welsch (Michelle Trachtenberg) is a spy. But when Harriet's
friends find her secret notebook the tables are turned on her. Can she
win her friends back and still keep on going with the spy business?
This film made it on to my to-see list because it was endorsed by
Facets Film School. I had an additional interest because I think that
Michelle Trachtenberg is an under-utilized actress. Now, as far as
being a good kids movie, it certainly is, and was a good first feature
for Nickelodeon. As for being a showcase for Trachtenberg, that is much
harder to say. She is the star here, her biggest role at the time (and
maybe since)... but the child actress is not the same person as today's
Kids will like this, and it is clean enough that parents have nothing to fear in showing it to them. Adults without kids may be less interested unless it has some sort of nostalgia value for them. For me, I could have used less Rosie O'Donnell, but she was an unavoidable presence in the 1990s.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Harriet the Spy (1996): Dir: Bronwen Hughes / Cast: Michelle Trachtenberg, Rosie O'Donnell, Gregory Smith, Vanessa Lee Chester, Eartha Kitt: Wonderful family film that teaches children the value of trust and friendship. Harriet is an observer who oversees the pain of those around her but is nonchalant to the fact that she can cause pain too. Harriet wishes to become a writer so she prowls the streets in witness. At home she is in the care of her nanny who is fired when she and a date take Harriet to a movie. A game of bumper tag lands her pad in the wrong hands and awful truths surface that cause distance from her friends. Beautiful locations accompany an eye for detail. Stylish directing by Bronwen Hughes who creates a family film that parents can engage in with their children due to the themes it raises. Michelle Trachtenberg delivers a spunky performance as Harriet with conviction and curiosity. Rosie O'Donnell is strong as Harriet's nanny who views things at face value. Gregory Smith and Vanessa Lee Chester play her friends who must decide whether or not to forgive or to reduce themselves to the lows of other classmates. Eartha Kitt also makes an appearance as some mysterious individual observed by Harriet. Here is a family film that raises questions as well as entertain. Themes of friendship and forgiveness result in one of the best family films of the decade. Score: 10 / 10
Harriet M. Welsch (Michelle Trachtenberg) is a sixth grader with best
friends Sport (Gregory Smith) and Janie Gibbs. Her nanny Golly (Rosie
O'Donnell) drives her to write. She spies on her neighborhood writing
it all down in her notebook. Marion Hawthorne (Charlotte Sullivan) is
the class mean girl. Golly sees Harriet is old enough and leaves.
Marion takes Harriet's notebook and starts reading it out loud to
everybody. Even Sport and Janie turns on Harriet when her
uncomplimentary private thoughts become public.
The movie is aggressively trying to be wacky. It comes off looking cheap. Director Bronwen Hughes in her feature debut struggles from time to time. Some parts of the movie is less compelling than others. Spying on the cat guy is fine but spying on Eartha Kitt takes up too much time in an important section of the movie. Then there is the heart of the movie. While I appreciate the attempt at a life lesson, it's a bit too muddy. I don't know if white lies are worthy of being the central lesson of the movie. I would also have preferred Sport go off on his own rather than joining Marion. It seems wrong for his character that has been created. Trachtenberg is a terrific child actress and gives a great performance. She keeps the movie moving.
This movie has more than not received enough credit; it has passed
virtually unknown. I must be one of the few people in the country to
have watched this, but I'm glad that I did.
I've always been a Michelle Trachtenberg fan, right since I watched 17 Again and Eurotrip. That's not just because of her adorably cute face, but also because she is a very fun and light-hearted person. When I first heard that she got her very own movie in which she starred as the main character at the age of 12 (6 years before I was born), no questions asked: I went and watched that film straight away.
To begin with, I was never familiar with the story of Harriet the Spy, since it's such an old series I couldn't even read by the time it was already several years old. At first, I thought it was about an actual 'child-spy' who uncovered some kind of secret plot, and I thought it was just going to be another one of those Home Alone-type movies. But when it came to watching it, I found something much, much better.
Michelle's acting was amazing for a 12-year-old girl, and when she wanted to look intimidating, she looked intimidating as hell. As the story began to unravel, revealing the typical problems with friendships (just in a more exaggerated and horribly cruel way (I mean, paint buckets? That's traumatizing.)), I found myself either making an awfully loud "Aww" sound every few seconds or quietly sobbing as I felt sorry for Harriet.
To sum the whole thing up, Harriet the Spy is a heartfelt and truly touching film with guffawing comedy, bawling drama and everything in between. For me, it wasn't just a family movie (I also watched it on my own, so that's another weird thing to add on to how I am 14 years old, at an age where no-one watches such emotional tales): it was a life lesson to helping your friends and never leaving them no matter what.
I love this movie. It is just so much fun. Michelle Trachtenberg was so
adorable as Harriet M. Welsch, the little kid detective. Watch this
with your kids, parents. It is so funny! I highly recommend this movie
to everybody. Everyone will love it. Especially the kids. It teaches
them a good lesson. It taught me one when I was little.
The plot is so silly but so fun that it makes the movie so fun. I loved watching it when I was little. Me being older now, 15, makes me a little less into it but I still adore this and I watch it with my little cousin Lydia every Thanksgiving. She loves it as much as I do. Watch this movie. It's so awesome!
I'm randomly here online checking out Harriet The Spy, since it's really my favorite movie of all time. This movie is so inspiring, one that you just have to see. If you're a young child, it's great and if you get a lil older, it's still the greatest and you could be caught crying. All I can say is that it's just beautiful and it's just so detailed and you can understand it more. Harriet The Spy has so much drama and it just has so much meaning to it. You see how important certain people are and the inspiration Harriet has towards becoming a writer. It's beautiful...and if you ever see any movie, it had better be this one. This movie is still my favorite today just because of how much it impacted me. I love to write and this shows how writing can make the world a better place...what you write can make a difference...because you'll know more and be able to help others...
Harriet The Spy Is Soooooooooooooo Good> Like its just such a great
movie for kids. When it came out i was a kid and i loved it! As did my
girlfriend and we still do. There are some really funny bits and
touching bits. For instance when gully leaves and when Harriet gets her
notebook taken away. Also when gully returns. I enjoy watching this
movie, in fact i watched it yesterday. i think that all kids should be
supported in their ventures such as writing in a notebook. Notebooks
are such a great thing to spurn creativity. Some people just love the
smell, and the look of a blank white page. They like it even better
when it's filled with pretty things and words.
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