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Harriet the Spy

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Harriet the Spy
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Not a good way to start Nickelodeon’s film career.
Genre: Coming-of-age
Directed By: Bronwen Hughes
Written By: Greg Taylor Julie Talen
Starring: Michelle Trachtenberg
Rosie O'Donnell
Photography: Color
Distributed By: Paramount Pictures
Release Date: July 10, 1996
Runtime: 102 minutes
Country: United States

Harriet the Spy is a 1996 American coming-of-age mystery comedy film directed by Bronwen Hughes in her directorial debut, and starring Michelle Trachtenberg in her feature film acting debut. It co-stars Rosie O'Donnell, J. Smith-Cameron, Gregory Smith, and Vanessa Lee Chester. It is based on the 1964 novel of the same name by Louise Fitzhugh. It would receive a made-for-television remake in 2010 entitled Harriet the Spy: Blog Wars.


Young Harriet aspires to be a spy and keeps a diary, writing things she knows about people and even her friends. When the diary falls into the wrong hands, she faces the risk of losing her friends.

Bad Qualities

  1. The story is weak and just plain boring.
  2. Many characters were flandeirzed and became unlikable.
    • Harriet M. Welsch is an unlikable protagonist for many reasons due to her bratty attitude and her habit of apologizing at the last minute.
    • Marion Hawthorne is no better as an antagonist as she is a typical cruel popular girl.
  3. The jokes are not funny at all.
  4. Bad acting, especially for Michelle Trachtenberg.
  5. The film sometimes goes nowhere at times.
  6. The pacing is extremely slow.
  7. The supporting characters are unlikable as well.
  8. The film isn't very faithful to the source material from the original book.
  9. The movie is filled with very inappropriate moments, from Harriet's male classmates ogling the chest under Carrie's top when she bends over to Harriet hanging her bra up the school flagpole.
  10. Approximately 1/10th of the movie is filled with shots of bare feet of underage characters, especially the protagonist, Harriet.

Good Qualities

  1. The soundtrack was okay.
  2. It started the birth of Nickelodeon Movies.
  3. Moviegoers, fan of 1990s films and people who grew up in the 1990s might enjoy watching it.
  4. Eartha Kitt is the only actor to take her work seriously.
  5. The 2021 TV series is a major improvement.
  6. The Nickelodeon logo of the film is decent.


The film received mixed reviews from critics. On Rotten Tomatoes it has an approval rating of 48% based on reviews from 31 critics. The site's consensus: "Harriet the Spy is a rapid-fire mystery movie that doesn't have much to offer beyond the two decent lead performances.". Audiences surveyed by CinemaScore gave it a grade B+.


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