Movie Review: ‘Harriet the Spy’


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Oh, I remember fondly of the 1990s movies, especially the ones that were made from Nickelodeon. Those VHS tapes were orange and you weren’t anyone unless you had a couple of orange tapes in your collection. One of the first movies made by Nickelodeon was “Harriet the Spy.”

Released in 1996, “Harriet the Spy” was an adaptation to the book series of the same name. It also introduced the world to Michelle Trachtenberg, the girl who would go on to be the whiny brat that will end the world in “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” and a bitch on “Gossip Girl” (who isn’t a bitch on that show, am I right?). The movie also introduced children to Rosie O’ Donnell, who was/is still the face of the Kids Choice Awards for many. Rosie hosted the award show from 1996 until 2004.

The movie follows Harriet M. Welsch (Trachtenberg), an inspiring writer that literally creeps on people and writes down what she observes because her nanny Golly (O’Donnell) told her that she needs to write down everything if she wants to become a great writer. Everything is good in her life until her nanny is fired and her life is turned upside down. Harriet must overcome and adapt to the changes to her life as her parent’s think she is crazy, friend’s turned on her, and she doesn’t have the support system of Golly.

The movie itself isn’t a bad movie at all when you take out the nostalgia. It was cleverly written so that parents/adults will enjoy it while still catering to their child demographic. It’s also a kids movie that doesn’t suffer from any major plot/storytelling issues. Usually it suffers from “how does this happen?” But it doesn’t occur here. Everything happens in the real world. The outcome and the cause and effects of the actions are how they would actually happen in the real world. The only real thing that wouldn’t happen is Harriet pretty much getting off without any trouble for terrorizing her classmates. She cuts off a classmates ponytail and nothing happened to her at school.

As an adult, this movie is an extremely fucked up movie, which is why it’s the perfect kids movie. Golly is allowing Harriet to commit several crimes like breaking an entering and stalking. I totally understand and okay if it was in a public place, but some of these are just wrong. Like at one point, she’s starting into a store from the back alley and watching one of her friends have struggle to buy groceries. How is that okay? Golly is also the one that tells her to write down all of her observations which are just sometimes mean and cruel. She rudely wrote about how her friend’s father should just get a “real job.” Her white privilege shows so bad. Harriet has carves a hit list style list of all the people she “wants to get revenge.” I’m very shocked this is kids movie.

Where the movie fails is with some of the adult acting and how the adults were written. The only good adult was Golly, who had slightly questionable morals. An example of this was Harriet’s teacher. There’s a scene where a girl spills paint on Harriet on purpose. The teacher thinks the children are being helpful by grabbing paper towels but it’s very obvious that they are spreading paint around and making it worse. Another example of this is when the parent’s instruct the teacher to make sure Harriet doesn’t have her notebook when at school. The teacher literally pats her down in the middle of class, which no one would do because it’s demeaning and embarrassing. It’s stuff like that hurts the movie. Especially when everything else is true to real life.

“Harriet the Spy” is a classic movie that will bring on full nostalgia trips. The movie is well done in most aspects, especially when it comes to making the kids movie also appeal to adults with the writing. The writing and acting of the adult characters/actors is what hurts the film. It’s the most unbelievable part of the film that is based in real-time and does it well.

Rating: 3 out of 5

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