Based on the sixties kids’ book of the same name by Louise Fitzhugh, this was the first movie made by US TV channel Nickelodeon (who also made The Rugrats Movie and spin-offs from other cartoons). Eleven-year-old Harriet (Trachtenberg, who went on to become better known as Dawn in TV’s Buffy the Vampire Slayer) has aspirations to be a writer. Her grown-up companion, governess Golly (Rosie O’Donnell), tells her she must jot all her experiences down in her notebook if she wants to be a good author, so Harriet becomes a spy, snooping on neighbours and friends and religiously recording everything for posterity – until the day the class goody-goody gets her hands on her notebook and reveals Harriet’s thoughts (good and bad) to all and sundry. Uh-oh.
Director Bronwen Hughes (in her movie directorial debut) gets a bit carried away with jump-cuts, odd angles and MTV-style camera work that will give grown-ups watching headaches, and which also detract from the gist of the story (don’t snoop on your friends etc). Trachtenberg, however, does make an enjoyable Harriet (even if she is a bit of a mean character) and there is nice kiddie support from Gregory Smith and Vanessa Lee Chester as the best pals who are horrified by Harriet’s writings.
Is Harriet The Spy suitable for kids? Here are our parents’ notes...