Harriet The Spy
Adapted from a 1964 children’s best selling book, this action–comedy is about a likable sixth grade girl, Harriet Welsch (Michelle Trachtenberg), who is obsessed with being a spy and a writer. She spends her spare time spying on the sometimes suspicious activities of her neighbors, friends and other persons of interest to her. She finds herself spying on an elderly man who has a house full of cats, a Chinese family who is having trouble with their teenage son, a man struggling to make a living for himself and his son, and a man who seems to be stealing vegetables. She also records her feelings about her friends at school in her notebook. Her spying activities are rather amusing, but the film’s entertainment appeal seems to lag at times. The most engrossing sequence shows some harsh treatment Harriet receives from some of her classmates and friends (Vanessa Chester, Gregory Smith) and her efforts to get even with them. This film is meant for children about 12 years and younger, and those in attendance at the advance screening seemed to enjoy it. A short cartoon feature preceding this film, “Hey Arnold,” is colorful but rather mediocre.
Harriet’s parents don’t understand her obsession with spying and writing, but her nanny (Rosie O’Donnell) does. Her parents even send Harriet to a psychiatrist for testing, but he finds she is normal and suggests she be allowed to pursue her interests. In fact, the message of the film is that people should be free to pursue their own unique interests, talents and personalities. Although Harriet angers her friends with demeaning comments about them in her notebook, she has the courage to apologize to them and they eventually forgive her. It is disappointing that the film’s dialogue includes a moderately crude expression and several obscenities, although no f- or s-words. Also, one girl makes some supposedly comical comments about her girlfriend spending all summer growing breasts. HARRIET THE SPY has many commendable elements, but we cannot approve of young actors using several obscenities and some crude and suggestive remarks in a film targeted for preteens.