(Air Date: Week Of 7/10/96)
"Harriet, The Spy" is a movie for kids that grownups can sit through without even being chloroformed. Starring charming ten-year-old television veteran Michelle Trachtenberg in the title role and Rosie O'Donnell as Golly, the coolest babysitter ever, the film also features eleven-year-old Vanessa Lee Chester (so good as Becky in last year's "Little Princess") as best friend Janie, twelve-year-old Gregory Smith as Sport and Eartha Kitt in a scene-stealing cameo as Agatha K. Plummer.
Harriet, for the uninitiated, is the heroine of Louise Fitzhugh's classic 1964 novel about a sixth grade girl who scrutinises the people around her and records her observations in her daily journal. Unhappily, those unguarded observations are read out loud by her classmates and Harriet Welsch funds herself ostracised by EVERYONE including Janie and Sport. Even more unhappily, darling Golly leaves her job and (naturally!) Mr. and Mrs. Welsch DON'T UNDERSTAND her. What's a friendless, world-famous spy to do? The filmmakers, who were all childhood fans of the book, tell us in 97 colourful, fast-paced minutes. In fact, if there is one nit to pick, it is that newcomer Bronwen Hughes' MTV style of directing does distract us a bit from Harriet's riveting plight.
Still, her enthusiasm and affection for the characters are obvious and she couldn't have chosen a more winning Harriet than Trachtenberg. In fact, Louise Fitzhugh wrote a 1956 sequel, "The Long Secret", and if this Harriet movie does well, maybe we won't have to wait 32 years to see it. Take a hint, Nickelodeon (branching out into movie production with this first effort): let's see more of Harriet the Spy, Golly, Janie and Sport NEXT year!
Copyright 1996 Monica Sullivan
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