Charlotte's Web (2006)

"Good"

Charlotte's Web (2006) Review


That's sooooooooooooooooome Dakota Fanning!

It's only a mild heresy to turn a beloved children's book and animated film into a star vehicle for the wee Miss Fanning, the go-to child actress who has become Hollywood's only A-list star under the age of 13. The only real surprise is that she doesn't have her own production company yet.

And so we come to what must have been an inevitability: A live-action rendition of Charlotte's Web, complete with CGI-infused talking animals. The star power is out in force, at least in the barn. Fanning's Fern shepherds the action by adopting the runt of the swine litter, naming him Wilbur and placing him in foster care in her uncle's barn across the road in her tiny Maine farming community. Once in the confines of Zuckerman farm, the embittered animals begin to warm to young, impressionable Wilbur, while warning him exactly what humans keep pigs around for.

Eventually Wilbur is befriended by Charlotte the spider (voiced by Julia Roberts), who quickly vows to save him from his fate in the smokehouse. You probably know the drill: She weaves words into her web "SOME PIG," "TERRIFIC," and so on, which turns Wilbur into a local media sensation. The various other animals in the barn offer a hand here and there, most notably the rat Templeton (Steve Buscemi).

The film will inevitably -- and rightly -- be compared to the animated classic, a film so loved that it gives off that air of "don't mess with this movie." Yet there's messin; to be done. And aside from the obvious transition from cartoon to live action, here's what it entails.

The changes are subtle. For the most part, the new Charlotte's Web is a faithful and honest attempt to stick with its source material. But there's something here that has drained away some of the Web's magic. Is it an attempt to make the story more Fanning-focused? The movie has a more "kiddie" feel throughout. The animated film's best lines have gone missing here. In fact, one of my favorite lines of dialogue of all time has been excised. (It's from Templeton, who has been searching for new words to describe Wilbur and comes up with one from a popcorn box: "It says, 'Crunchy.'")

Instead of these clever moments, the film is filled with potty humor. Farting cows, the view of a horse's rear end, belches, drooling... these are the staples of the new Charlotte's Web. The source material is fine without such juvenile fare, and it's way out of place, weakening the film considerably over what is otherwise a perfectly serviceable affair for both kids and adults. (My four-year-old was only mildly distracted in the last half of the movie and sat quietly and patiently throughout the film.) The 96-minute film fairly flies by.

A word about casting: Roberts and Buscemi are inspired choices for their roles, but the remaining cast isn't quite as magical. Robert Redford is a horse. John Cleese is a sheep. Oprah Winfrey is a nattering goose. Thomas Haden Church is a crow. The voice work is fine, but it smells more of stunt casting to amuse the adults than anything else. (For what it's worth, Wilbur is voiced by an actual 10-year-old child.)

Rest assured that Charlotte's Web, 2006, is a perfectly fine film suitable for the Christmas season, possessing a good message about friendship and tolerance, and it's a movie which most kids will enjoy. (Though some will be scared to tears by the enormous, talking spider and the movie's occasional dark tones: The opening scene has a farmer threatening to behead a baby pig with an enormous axe.) A more apt comparison might be to look at Charlotte's Web next to that other talking pig movie, Babe, which is also superior in just about every way.

Bottom line: Charlotte's Web doesn't really encroach on the legacy and success of its animated ancestor. Frankly, the original Charlotte has nothing to worry about.

Maybe she's writing some new jokes.



Facts and Figures

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 3 / 5

Cast & Crew

Director:

Producer:

Contactmusic


Links



Advertisement

New Movies

The Edge of Seventeen Movie Review

The Edge of Seventeen Movie Review

An unusually realistic teen movie, this drama gets deep under the skin of its characters,...

Bleed for This Movie Review

Bleed for This Movie Review

This is such a ripping true story that it can't help but grab hold of...

Moana Movie Review

Moana Movie Review

In a clear echo of Frozen, this Disney animated adventure centres on a fiercely independent...

Bad Santa 2 Movie Review

Bad Santa 2 Movie Review

The 2003 comedy Bad Santa is a holiday classic that skilfully mixes gross-out humour with...

Allied Movie Review

Allied Movie Review

There's a terrific script at the heart of this World War II thriller, with a...

A United Kingdom Movie Review

A United Kingdom Movie Review

Based on a powerful true story from the late 1940s, this drama is packed with...

Indignation Movie Review

Indignation Movie Review

Philip Roth's layered novels are a challenge for filmmakers (see also 2003's The Human Stain...

Advertisement
Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them Movie Review

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them Movie Review

It's been five years since the last Harry Potter movie, and J.K. Rowling has been...

Dog Eat Dog Movie Review

Dog Eat Dog Movie Review

Yet another bonkers thriller starring Nicolas Cage, this trashy crime comedy comes from director Paul...

Iggy Pop - Post Pop Depression: Live At The Royal Albert Hall Movie Review

Iggy Pop - Post Pop Depression: Live At The Royal Albert Hall Movie Review

"Iggy Pop - Post Pop Depression: Live At The Royal Albert Hall" is a DVD...

Arrival Movie Review

Arrival Movie Review

This sci-fi drama has an enjoyably brain-bending plot that leaves the audience almost stunned with...

Elle Movie Review

Elle Movie Review

There's a boldly comical tone to this outrageous thriller that can't help but unnerve audiences...

100 Streets Movie Review

100 Streets Movie Review

A multi-strand drama set in London, this film is very nicely shot and acted, but...

Nocturnal Animals Movie Review

Nocturnal Animals Movie Review

It's been seven years since designer Tom Ford made a splash with his award-winning writing-directing...

Advertisement
Artists
Actors
    Filmmakers
      Artists
      Bands
        Musicians
          Artists
          Celebrities
             
              Artists
              Interviews
                musicians & bands in the news
                  actors & filmmakers in the news
                    celebrities in the news

                      Go Back in Time using our News archive to see what happened on a particular day in the past.