Movie Review: Harriet the Spy

Harriet the Spy Trailer

Harriet the Spy Summary

Eleven-year-old sixth grader Harriet M. Welsch aspires to be a spy and writer. She lives a privileged life in New York City with her parents, Violetta and Ben and her nanny, Katherine “Ole Golly”, who’s the only person who knows all the things that Harriet has been snooping on. Harriet and her best friends Simon “Sport” Rocque and Janie Gibbs are enemies with an elitist rich girl named Marion Hawthorne.

One night while alone with Harriet, Golly invites a friend, George Waldenstein, over for dinner. After Golly accidentally burns the meal, the three go out to dinner and a movie instead. When the three return home late in the evening, Violetta, enraged at Golly for letting Harriet stay out past her curfew, initially fires her, but quickly regrets this and begs for Golly to stay. However, Golly concedes that Harriet should be on her own, and shortly before departing, she encourages Harriet to never give up on her love for observing people, and promises her that she will be the first to buy her very own autographed copy of Harriet’s first novel. After bidding Golly goodbye, Harriet becomes depressed and withdrawn. While spying on people in various areas of the city, Harriet breaks into the mansion of Agatha Plummer, and gets caught hiding in her dumbwaiter.

After school the next day, Marion discovers Harriet’s private notebook and begins reading all of Harriet’s vindictive comments about her friends out loud, such as how she suspects Janie “will grow up to be a nutcase”, and teasing Sport’s father for barely earning any money. This results in Sport and Janie turning their backs on Harriet. Harriet’s classmates subsequently create a Spy-Catcher club and torment Harriet on her spy routes.

When Harriet begins avoiding her homework assignments, her parents take away her notebooks and request that her teacher, Miss Elson, search Harriet each day at school for notebooks, embarrassing Harriet. One day, during art class, Marion and her friends intentionally pour blue paint on Harriet, who slaps Marion in the face and flees the school. Harriet enacts a revenge plot against her classmates, including exposing that Marion’s father left her family to be with his secretary because he never loved her, cutting off a chunk of Laura’s hair, sabotaging one of Janie’s science experiments (triggering an angry response from Janie’s parents), and humiliating Sport with a picture of him in a maid outfit. Harriet’s revenge plans enrage her classmates, further alienating her.

Harriet’s parents discover what she has done to her classmates and send her to be evaluated by a psychologist, who assures them that Harriet is fine. Then things start to get better again. Harriet gets her notebook back, and she even gets a surprise visit from Golly, who tells her that in order to make things right again, she must do two things, both of which she will not like: apologize and lie. When Harriet tells her that it’s not worth it, Golly disagrees, and tells Harriet that she is worth it as an individual, and her being an individual will make others nervous (and keep making them feel as such), before finally adding that one of the blessings of life is good friends, and tells Harriet to never give up her friends without a fight.

Harriet then tries to apologize to Sport and Janie, even though they initially reject her (they later, however, finally come to their senses because they get tired of being treated unfairly in Marion’s bully group and consequently quit as a result, much to Marion’s dismay). She also shares her opinion with Miss Elson and the class that the appointment of the editor of the sixth grade paper was done unfairly, who agrees, and opens it up for a vote. Harriet is voted in as editor, by her classmates, replacing Marion. Through one article, she apologizes to everyone, including Marion, and all (except Marion) accept her apology. On opening night of the 6th grade pageant, Janie, Sport, and Harriet light off a stink bomb as revenge on Marion and dance to James Brown’s “Get Up Offa That Thing” until the end of the film.

Harriet the Spy Review

Rating: 5 out of 5.

A classic from the 90’s based off the book. This film was fun, adventurous and unforgettable. A great family movie.

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