Harriet the Spy (1996)

Genres - Children's/Family, Comedy  |   Sub-Genres - Family-Oriented Adventure, Family-Oriented Comedy  |   Release Date - Jul 10, 1996 (USA)  |   Run Time - 102 min.  |   Countries - United States   |   MPAA Rating - PG
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Review by Andrea LeVasseur

Updating the '60s children's novel for a '90s Nickelodeon audience, Harriet the Spy retells the classic story with all the wild design and green slime that kids have come to expect from the cable network. As Harriet M. Welsch, ten-year-old Michelle Trachtenberg (from the underrated Adventures of Pete & Pete TV series) creates a realistic ego-driven creative force, a bona fide heroine who suffers for her art. Stylistically, the world in which Harriet resides is full of bright colors and wacky patterns, with everything having an oversized cartoon sense to it. She and her friends even hang out in a magical play garden full of hands-on junkyard art and trees bearing bottles of soda pop. Yet, the fun is interrupted as the group of wealthy and privileged classmates begin to display a real mean-spiritedness in their ridicule of Harriet, and she too is cruel in her revenge. Though sometimes heading in the direction of sentiment in the scenes with Golly (Rosie O'Donnell), the story mostly remains full of sharp humor and inventive dialogue. While it sometimes seems like an extra-long Nickelodeon TV show, Harriet the Spy nevertheless is a smart kid's movie, celebrating youthful exuberance and managing to address some brutal life lessons.