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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » Harriet The Spy
Harriet The Spy
Paramount // PG // May 27, 2003
List Price: $19.99 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Mike Long | posted June 3, 2003 | E-mail the Author
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For every copy-cat stinker that Hollywood churns out each year, there are hundreds of novels that deserve to reach the silver screen. And while many of these books contain enchanting stories which are fun to read, they may not make the translation to film with ease. "Harriet the Spy" is such a book.

The Movie

Harriet (Michelle Trachtenberg) is a young girl who loves to spy. She watches everything that goes on in her neighborhood and records it in her trusty notebook. As her parents are too busy to notice her odd behavior, Harriet receives guidance from her nanny Golly (Rosie O'Donnell). When she's not spying, Harriet enjoys spending time with her best friends, Sport (Gregory Smith) and Janie (Vanessa Lee Chester). But, when Harriet's notebook is found by her arch-enemy Marion (Charlotte Sullivan), it's revealed that Harriet's spying has led her to judge everyone.

After viewing "Harriet the Spy", two things become obvious -- 1. The marketing for the film was misleading, and 2. It's clear why the film was tough to market. As I remember, the commercials made "Harriet the Spy" look like a fun kids romp, in which the story focused on Harriet's spying. And the fact that "Harriet the Spy" came from Nickelodeon Films was also heavily promoted. The truth is that "Harriet the Spy" plays like a European art film and is an incredibly serious, and at times, very depressing film.

Far from being a kid's adventure film, "Harriet the Spy" is a slice-of-life movie, as it explores Harriet's relationships with her parents, Golly, and her friends. And while these themes may have worked well in the book, where emotions could be more fully explored, they drag down this movie. Granted, the film does teach some fine lessons about honesty and respect, but these get lost under all of the despondency in the film.

Blame must fall squarely on the shoulders of director Bronwen Hughes, as the pacing of the film doesn't help the story. The "plot" (if you want to call it that) doesn't show up until about 45 minutes into the film. Before that, we are treated to several musical montages showing Harriet and her friends playing. For a film that has little to offer, "Harriet the Spy" does nothing to pull the viewer into the story.

Video

The film is presented in an anamorphic widescreen and has been letterboxed at 1.85:1. The image is very clear and sharp, showing only minor traces of grain at times. There are some slight defects from the source material, but these are rare. The colors look good, although the film avoids any bright or exaggerated hues. There is some slight artifacting at times. Overall, a fairly good transfer.

Audio

The audio on this DVD offers a truly mixed bag. The Dolby Digital 5.1 presentation delivers dialogue and sound effects that work well in their stereo presentation, but aren't overly impressive. However, someone has given great care to the musical score, as it resounds throughout all of the speakers, showing true surround seperation and delivering a great bass response.

Extras

There are no extras on this DVD.


My wife is a fan of the original "Harriet the Spy" novel, and she was very disappointed with the movie. If that doesn't say enough, allow me to reiterate that the movie is depressing and boring. It's aimed squarely at young teens, but I can't imagine them finding much inspiration in this film.
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