Release Date: December 15th, 2006 by Paramount Pictures.
The Cast: Dominic Scott Kay, Julia Roberts, Dakota Fanning, Steve Buscemi, John Cleese, Oprah Winfrey, Cedric the Entertainer, Kathy Bates, Reba McEntire, Robert Redford, Thomas Haden Chruch, André Benjamin, Sam Shepard, Abraham Benrubi.
Directed by Gary Winick.
BASIC PREMISE: Wilbur (voice of Kay), a barnyard pig, befriends Charlotte (voice of Roberts), a spider, who helps to save him from being slaughtered before the next spring. Based on the classic children’s book by E.B. White.
ENTERTAINMENT VALUE: Although unsurprising,Charlotte’s Web captures most of the classic story’s charm and sweetness. Unlike the previous film version, this one uses primarily live action, except with the spider and its web, and incorporates CGI to move the animals’ and rodents’ mouth just like in Babe. The plot remains pretty loyal to the book as Charlotte weaves her web to spell out words which would hopefully save Wilbur from being slaughtered. Whenever Fern (Fanning), the young girl who befriends him, comes onscreen, the film feels a bit dull. Also, Julia Robert’s voice doesn’t exactly feel warm and charming as Charlotte should ideally be. The other barnyard creatures, such as Templeton (voice of Buscemi) seem to be there for comic relief which comes in the form of silly toilet humor—except for the brief scenes with two hilarious scarecrows. At least these scenes don’t last too long and the plot focuses, instead, on the unlikely friendship between Wilbur and Charlotte. Director Gary Winick includes some amazing CGI animation, i.e. during close-up of the Charlotte’s web and the intricate way she spins it. Fortunately, little children will be more forgiving for some of the silly and contrived scenes and, therefore, will be easily immersed in this charming story.
SPIRITUAL VALUE: The overarching themes include true friendship and compassion, which are quite heartwarming to observe. In a particularly moving scene, Charlotte explains the meaning of death without making it feel too dark or depressing for kids.
INSULT TO YOUR INTELLIGENCE: Occasionally contrived and silly.
NUMBER OF TIMES I CHECKED MY WATCH: 2
IN A NUTSHELL: Mostly charming and heartwarming with terrific CGI animation, but occasionally contrived and silly.
RECOMMENDED WAY TO WATCH: Movie Theater (2nd Run)
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