Harriet the Spy is a 1996 film adaptation of the 1964 novel of the same name by Louise Fitzhugh, and starring Michelle Trachtenberg as the title character.

This film was directed by Bronwen Hughes, produced by Paramount Pictures, Nickelodeon Movies and Rastar. This was the first film that was produced under the Nickelodeon Movies banner, and the first of two film adaptations of the Harriet the Spy books. In theaters, the pilot episode of Hey Arnold! was shown before the film.

The film was shot in Fort Lauderdale and Miami, Florida, and Toronto, Ontario, Canada.

Plot[edit | edit source]

Spoiler warning: The following contains plot details about
the entire movie.

Harriet (Michelle Trachtenberg) is an eleven-year-old sixth grader and a young spy/writer who is best friends with Simon "Sport" Rocque (Gregory Smith) and Janie Gibbs (Vanessa Lee Chester). She lives a privileged life with her parents and her nanny, Katherine "Ole Golly" (Rosie O'Donnell) who's the only person who knows all the things that Harriet has been snooping on. Harriet and her friends are enemies with mainly Marion Hawthorne (Charlotte Sullivan). For a while, Harriet lives life very well with being a spy and having fun with Golly.

One night, Golly invites a friend over and Harriet, Golly and Golly's friend go to dinner and a movie, where things turn into a disaster. Mrs. Welch fires Golly for letting Harriet stay out late and then begs her to stay. Golly tells her that Harriet is old enough to take care of herself, much to everyone's protests. After Harriet bids Golly goodbye, she becomes depressed and withdrawn. She even gets caught when investigating the nether regions of Agatha K Plummer (Eartha Kitt).

The next morning, she plays with her friends at the park, and disaster strikes. Marion Hawthorne finds Harriet's private notebook and begins reading all of Harriet's vindictive comments on her friends out loud, such as how she suspects Janie "will grow up to be a nutcase", and mocking Sport's father for barely earning any money. Everyone finds that they're all cruel and hurtful, and even Sport and Janie turn their backs on Harriet. The kids then create a Spy-Catcher club and torment Harriet on her spy routes.

After running into a police officer, and then getting zeroes on her schoolwork, Harriet gets her notebook taken away by her parents. Her parents tell Harriet's teacher Mrs. Elson (Nancy Beatty) to search Harriet every day for notebooks, much to Harriet's embarrassment. One day, during art, Marion Hawthorne "accidentally" pours blue paint all over Harriet, who does things to get back at everyone individually.

Harriet's parents find out what she has done to her classmates and send her to be evaluated by a psychologist, who assures them that Harriet is fine. Harriet then tries to apologize to Sport and Janie and soon gets appointed as the editor of the sixth grade paper by her classmates. She apologizes to everyone and all is well. On opening night of the 6th Grade pageant, Janie and Harriet light off a stink bomb and dance until the end of the film.

Cast[edit | edit source]

  • Michelle Trachtenberg as Harriet M. Welsch
  • Rosie O'Donnell as Katherine "Ole Golly"
  • Gregory Smith as Simon "Sport" Rocque
  • Vanessa Lee Chester as Janie Gibbs
  • J. Smith-Cameron as Mrs. Welsch
  • Robert Joy as Mr. Welsch
  • Eartha Kitt as Agatha K. Plummer
  • Charlotte Sullivan as Marion Hawthorne
  • Teisha Kim as Rachel Hennessy
  • Cecilley Carroll as Beth Ellen Hansen
  • Dov Tiefenbach as Boy with Purple Socks
  • Nina Shock as Carrie Andrews
  • Connor Devitt as Pinky Whitehead
  • Alisha Morrison as Laura Peters
  • Nancy Beatty as Miss Elson
  • James Gilfillan as Archie Simmons
  • Gerry Quigley as Sport's Dad
  • Jackie Richardson as Janie's Mother
  • Roger Clown as Dr. Wagner

Production[edit | edit source]

"Harriet the Spy" started shooting on October 11, 1995 (which was on Michelle Trachtenberg's 10th birthday) and ended on December 19, 1995.

The filming locations took place in Miami & Fort Lauderdale, Florida and in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.

Box Office[edit | edit source]

"Harriet the Spy" grossed $6,601,651 on its opening weekend, averaging about $3,615 per each of the 1,826 screens it was shown on.

The film went on to gross a total of $26,570,048 by August 1, 1996 and is considered a modest box office success, earning back more than double its $12 million budget.

Critical Reception[edit | edit source]

"Harriet the Spy" has received mixed reviews from critics and it currently has a 48% "rotten" rating on Rotten Tomatoes.

Roger Ebert gave the film a two-star rating, saying, "It is not a very technically accomplished movie--the pacing is slow and there are scenes that seem amateurish--but since Harriet doesn't intend to inspire anyone to become a movie critic, perhaps it will work a certain charm for its target audience."

The San Francisco Chronicle's Peter Stack said that the film "has real character in some of its details, but it never feels like much more than a low-budget TV show."

The Austin Chronicle's Hollis Chacona gave the film a two-star rating and described it as "a clever movie that mixes a Sixties pop spy tempo and decidedly retro film speed manipulation with updated cultural and ideological icons."

Trailer[edit | edit source]


Harriet the Spy Original Trailer

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