Liv Action + CG Animation
Director: Gary Winick
Starring: Dakota Fanning
Voices of: John Cleese, Steve Buscemi, Cedric
The Entertainer, Reba McEntire, Kathy Bates, Thomas Haden Church,
RunTime: 1 hr 38 mins
Released By: UIP
Date: 21 December 2006
The classic story of loyalty, trust, and sacrifice comes to
life in this live-action adaptation. Fern (Dakota Fanning)
is one of only two living beings who sees that Wilbur is a
special animal as she raises him, the runt of the litter,
into a terrific and radiant pig. As Wilbur moves into a new
barn, he begins a second profound friendship with the most
unlikely of creatures; a spider named Charlotte and their
bond inspires the animals around them to come together as
a family. When the word gets out that Wilbur’s days
are numbered, it seems that only a miracle will save his life.
A determined Charlotte who sees miracles in the ordinary spins
words into her web in an effort to convince the farmer that
Wilbur is ‘some pig’ and worth saving. Also stars
the voice talents of Julia Roberts, Steve Buscemi, John Cleese,
Oprah Winfrey, Cedric the Entertainer, Andre Benjamin, Thomas
Haden Church, Robert Redford, Reba McEntire, Kathy Bates.
I admit. I cried in this live action animation version of
Charlotte’s Web. But then I cried when I first read
the original American children’s classic by E.B White
at age eight. I remember running to my Mum and asking her
endless awkward questions about life and death. “Why
did the good spider have to die?” I remember asking.
I came across the 1973 animated musical of Charlotte’s
Web. I sang along and you guessed it, I shed tears at the
end. The 2006 version would be a tough act to follow.
new version, directed by Gary Winick (13 going on 30) we get
a rather faithful adaptation of E.B White’s book. We
are transported back to 1950s Maine (courtesy of picturesque
Melbourne, Australia) where the tale takes place. Born in
the spring, Wilbur (Dominic Scott Kay) is the runt of the
litter and plucky Fern (Dakota Fanning-more on her later)
saves him from her father’s ax. When he grows too big,
she is forced to sell him to her Uncle Zuckerman’s barn
who is just across the road. It is here during this time that
Wilbur discovers he is not special among the barn’s
animal folk, and that he will not see the break of winter,
as he will be soon checked into the ‘smokehouse hotel’.
He forms a friendship with outcast Charlotte A. Cavatica (Julia
Roberts) and she promises to save him the only way she knows
how – words and webs.
strength of this film is in the story. Other than that, for
the most part, it is actually rather bland and mediocre. Wilbur
may be an extremely cute pig and the other live action animals
are pretty and believable, but it just screams out for a comparison
with far superior Oscar nominated Babe released 11 years ago.
There is nothing truly groundbreaking or spectacular. Worse,
the movie tended to drag unnecessarily in the second act.
However, the CGI rendering of Charlotte and her web spinning
sequences are to be commended.
in typical Hollywood fashion, the animals rely heavily on
the characters of its celebrity voice cast (John Cleese, Oprah
Winfrey, Cedric the Entertainer, Thomas Haden Church, Kathy
Bates etc) for any semblance of characterisation. Julia Roberts
is an exception to this. Her lovely vocalisation of Charlotte
is truly magnificent and heartbreaking. Steve Buscemi as Templeton
the Rat also deserves high praise for bringing his character
there is overrated Dakota Fanning. She irks me as much as
she irritates. She is too old to play eight-year old Fern.
But here, with a character that gets marginalised and ‘disappears’
as the film progresses, she has finally found her place and
ironic fate awaiting her in the real world.
there are the fart jokes and terribly corny jokes. Adults
bringing their young are sure to groan and finally realise
why the Romans invented vomitariums. These obvious attempts
aim to appeal to the underaged but are rather needless with
adapting classic Literature. Family comedy this is, but parents
and guardians are warned (perhaps Singapore’s most sensible
PG rating yet) as the death of Charlotte and emotions running
near the end off this movie was too much for one four–year
old member of the audience. I didn’t know whether to
laugh or cry when that little girl cried and blurted out “Mummy,
why the spider have to die [sic]?”
what is a film essentially? It is a modern Art form that tells
a great story. And if we look at Charlotte’s Web in
this light, the loveable, potent and moralistic story overshadows
all its flaws. It is a beautifully packaged tale about friendship,
loyalty, the keeping of promises and sacrifice. Some things
both young and old can relate to, and we definitely need more
of. And if it can steer young and old to read this wonderful
classic by E.B. White, it would have done its job.
(Bring those tissues; you will need lots of them)
by Darren Sim