Movie Review by Vivienne Messenger
Starring (voices of): Julia Roberts, Steve Buscemi, John Cleese, Oprah Winfrey
Director: Gary Winick
In a world where spiders are frequently squashed, rats are treated as vermin and pigs end up as pork, CHARLOTTE’S WEB is a quaint tale where a wise spider Charlotte (voiced by Julia Roberts), a rat Templeton (Steve Buscemi) and a piglet Wilbur (Dominic Scott Kay) ultimately help each other – bonded by a unique, resourceful and strong friendship.
It takes the initiative of a determined young farm girl, Fern Arable (the naturally talented Dakota Fanning), to save Wilbur at birth who becomes part of her family until he outgrows himself. She is then reluctantly persuaded to move him to her uncle’s farm opposite where he resides with the other farm animals in a large barn. Set in their ways they’re unaccustomed to a lively piglet and Wilbur finds their company somewhat boring – until he meets Charlotte. Charlotte gradually becomes his mentor and confidante. As Wilbur grows and the other animals carelessly let slip his likely fate and one way trip to the bleak smoke house on the hill, a caring and selfless Charlotte takes it upon herself to devise a plan of action to communicate to their farmer that Wilbur is not just any pig. He deserves to live rather than be cured!
This is a very imaginative story but is aimed more at younger children rather than older ones and is probably more appealing to girls as Fern is the lead character. It is also very emotional in places and though delicately handled by the director, Gary Winick (13 GOING ON 30), is quite sad towards the end – almost a real tear jerker. Kids though will most likely ask some questions and when reassured, will take it in their stride.
Based on E B White’s acclaimed novel originally published in 1952, the film is set in this time period in a traditional, rural farming community of Maine, USA, where life very much revolved around community events and family life. Using live action (most of the animals in the film are not computer generated), animatronics and CG animation this is a well produced film and surprisingly shot on location in Victoria, Australia.
Overall CHARLOTTE’S WEB is an enchanting and entertaining film, especially for youngsters.