Charlotte’s Web

A-
Charlotte’s Web
Rated G; Directed by Gary Winick; Starring Dakota Fanning and the voice talents of Julia Roberts, Dominic Scott Kay, Robert Redford, Steve Buscemi, John Cleese, Cedric the Entertainer, Oprah Winfrey, Kathy Bates, Reba McIntire

E.B White’s classic children’s story comes to the big screen in Charlotte’s Web. I was worried if Hollywood would spoil the sweet story, but as the movie had me close to bawling like a baby I think the filmmakers did a fine job. They managed to create a funny, sweet, and moving film that only sinks into unpleasant kid’s movie humor once in a while.

Wilbur is the runt of the pig litter and is about to be put out of his misery until young Fern (Dakota Fanning) persuades her father that she take care of him. Wilbur (voice of Dominic Scott Kay) is soon sharing a barn full of other animals who know the unpleasant reality of Wilbur’s future: the smokehouse and a holiday dinner. Then one day lonely Wilbur befriends Charlotte, a spider (Julia Roberts) who is not used to having friends in the barn. It becomes her mission to find a way to save Wilbur.

The story about Wilbur hits all the right emotional notes. I read the book decades ago, so memory is faint, but the script seems faithful to the heart of White’s novel. The CGI effects work to create animal characters with personality. In fact, one of the few problems with the film is that the animals have more personality than the people.

A pleasant surprise was the design of the old-fashioned look and feel of the farming community – no nasty modernizing to update the story for today’s electronic age. It adds to the timeless quality of the story.

Charlotte’s Web is a good movie. For children it offers a sweet story. As for adults? Bring a hanky.

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