Harriet the Spy Harriet the Spy

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Harriet the Spy

ages 11+ | 100 % Say It's Worth Your Time

Harriet the Spy is a 1996 comedy-drama and mystery film adaptation of the 1964 novel of the same name, drawn and written by Louise Fitzhugh, and starring Michelle Trachtenberg as the title character. This film was produced by Paramount Pictures, Nickelodeon Movies and Rastar, and originally released in movie theaters in July 1996. 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 the Florida cities of Fort Lauderdale and Miami, plus Toronto, Ontario. Harriet (Michelle Trachtenberg) is an 11 year old 6th grade young spy who is best friends with Simon "Sport" Rocque (Gregory Smith) and Janie Gibbs (Vanessa Lee Chester). She lives a privelledged life with her parents and her nanny, Katherine "Ole Golly" (Rosie O'Donnell). Harriet and her friends are enemies with mainly Marion Hawthorne (Charlotte Sullivan). For awhile, Harriet lives a well life being a spy and having fun with Golly. One night, Golly invites a friend over and things turn into a disaster. Mrs. Welsch fires Golly for letting Harriet


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Genre: Comedy , Drama , Family

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  • ParentPreviews.com

    No Maturity Rating | Worth Your Time

    Children always benefit when parents watch movies with them, and in this case, parental guidance is a necessity. Otherwise, Harriet becomes another movie with working parents, mean kids at school, and miserable teachers. When parents ask questions like -- Should she spy on people? Should she have written things about others? Were her actions toward her classmates justified, considering what they did to her? -- they can help unveil the real secrets in this movie.

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  • Dove Foundation

    ages 12+ | Worth Your Time

    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.

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  • ages 9+ | Worth Your Time

    Parents need to know that Harriet the Spy is a 1997 adaptation of the popular book in which a tween girl "spies" on her friends, classmates, and neighbors and learns a tough lesson on how words can hurt when her secret notebook is stolen by her arch-nemesis and read aloud. There's some bullying, especially when Harriet is ostracized by her peers; it's primarily verbal taunting and silent-treatment shunning but also chasing Harriet throughout the neighborhood and her getting blue paint "accidentally" dumped on her clothes at school. When the entire class joins in on smearing paint all over Harriet's face and clothes, she retaliates by slapping her arch-nemesis hard in the face, then exacts systematic and humiliating revenge on all her peers. In one scene, Harriet calls an idea "retarded." There are also melodramatic proclamations from Harriet and her friends about how a snotty popular classmate makes them want to go on a "psycho killing spree" and Harriet's aspiring chemist friend talks of poisoning the popular girl. The class is shown watching old classroom movies with titles such as Girl to Woman and Boy to Man. Harriet talks in a voice-over of how one of the girls in her class is "growing boobs"; as she says this, the same girl is bending over to pick up something off the floor while all the boys in the class try to stare down her shirt. This girl's bra is later hung from the school flagpole as an act of revenge.

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  • (Male) Deseret News Critic

    No Maturity Rating | Worth Your Time

    Hollywood producers looking for good preteen actors should look no further than Nickelodeon's "The Adventures of Pete and Pete." The show already produced Heather Matarazzo, who went from a bit part on the series to a startlingly adult performance in the otherwise uneven film "Welcome to the Dollhouse." Now, Michelle Trachtenberg, who has a recurring role on the show, enlivens the film adaptation of Louise Fitzhugh's beloved children's novel "Harriet the Spy." Trachtenberg stars as Harriet M. Welsch, a precocious 11-year-old who spies on her friends, family and neighbors and writes her observations down in her secret spy notebook. Aided by her nanny and mentor, Golly (Rosie O'Don-nell), Harriet wants to be a writer, and what better way is there for her to learn than by observation? But Harriet is also an average sixth-grader who likes to play with her friends, Janie (Vanessa Lee Chester), a mad scientist in training, and Sport (Gregory Smith), who balances being a kid with taking care of his impoverished writer father. It's an especially trying time in Harriet's life, since Golly has decided that Harriet is too old to have a nanny. Also, her notebook and its incriminating contents have fallen into the hands of her fellow sixth-graders, including Janie and Sports, who are hurt by some of the revelations. Despite the downbeat subject material, "Harriet the Spy" is very much a comedy, though. Every time a near tragedy or hurtful situation occurs, there's a silly joke or sly tweak to the situation to lighten things up. That's not to say "Harriet the Spy" is perfect. It lags in the middle and nearly topples during the scenes where the other sixth-graders form a spycatchers club and taunt their former friend. Also, adults may have their patience tested by the film at times. There are a couple of mildly vulgar jokes and comments, and goop flies in a pair of scenes (what would a Nickelodeon program or film be without it?). But the movie really is supposed to be for kids after all, and since none of the material is too dark, it should do a decent job of keeping them entertained. As mentioned, Trachtenberg is terrific in her first starring role. She's hyper, smart, silly and even adorable at times. Surprisingly, O'Donnell is somewhat aloof and almost wooden in some places. But her scenes with Trachtenberg exude genuine warmth. Some of the credit should also go to director Bronwen Hughes, a commercial and television director (including some episodes of the "Kids in the Hall" series), who keeps things moving with a fluid but never jarring style. Preceding "Harriet the Spy" is an awfully unfunny "Hey Arnold!" animated short that seems much longer than its eight minutes. (Some short!) Actually a preview of a series that is supposed to start on Nickelodeon this fall, it features Arnold, a lad with a football-shaped head who is tormented by the school bully. Unfortunately, even more of its humor is juvenile in nature, and frankly, we've seen the loveable loser schtick done much better with Charles Schultz's Charlie Brown. The animation isn't too good, either. It's flat and the character designs are pretty unoriginal.

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Okfor ages12+