Charlotte's WebBy Jane Louise Boursaw
MPAA Rating: G
Fern adopts the little pig, names him Wilbur, and raises him as her pet and friend. With time, Wilbur (voiced by Dominic Scott Kay) bulks up and moves into the barn, where he meets a whole host of new buddies. There’s Gussy the mother goose (Oprah Winfrey), Golly the father goose (Cedric the Entertainer), Samuel the sheep (John Cleese), and Templeton (Steve Buscemi), a self-serving rat who’s always working the angles.
And then Wilbur meets Charlotte (Julia Roberts), a wise, caring spider with an impressive vocabulary! When word gets around that Wilbur is destined to become supper after all, Charlotte is determined to save her new friend. She instructs Templeton to gather up words from scraps of newspaper lying around, then she weaves the words into her web: “some pig,” “radiant,” “humble,” and “terrific.” Yeah, there’s something in it for Templeton – Wilbur’s table scraps!
When Wilbur is entered into the state fair, he and Charlotte have to do some pretty fancy footwork to spark interest from the crowds – and hopefully save him from the butcher’s block.
Other voices in this stellar cast include Kathy Bates, Thomas Haden Church, Jennifer Garner, Reba McEntire, Andre Benjamin, Beau Bridges, and Robert Redford as a horse who’s afraid of spiders.
This is another sweet movie from Walden Media, the company famous for bringing classic kids’ books to life, including Hoot, How to Eat Fried Worms, and The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. Charlotte’s Web was recently listed as the best-selling children’s paperback of all time, having sold more than 45 million copies worldwide. Award-winning author E.B. White penned the novel, first published in 1952 with illustrations by Garth Williams.
PRESCHOOLERS (ages 2-5): Yes, there are a few tense scenes, like when Wilbur narrowly escapes the axe and when Charlotte goes to that great web in the sky. Still, it’s a good mix of extremely cute characters (Wilbur is adorable!) and valuable lessons about life and death. Also the characters are real, not animated, and yet the animals appear to be talking, thanks to the magic of CGI (the same technique used in Racing Stripes). That will go a long way to earn this movie a special place in the heart of preschoolers.
GRADE-SCHOOLERS (ages 6-10): With just a smidgeon of crude humor (the usual passing-gas scene – with cows, in this case), this is a really sweet movie for grade-schoolers. Like the book, the movie touches on essential lessons of loyalty, trust, sacrifice, and true friendship. There's enough action to keep kids happy (like the two crows determined to make Templeton’s life miserable), and enough wit and wisdom to satisfy parents. As Charlotte says, “With the right words, you can change the world.”
TWEEN/TEEN (ages 11+): The take-away message is an appreciation and respect for all living beings, and a reminder to look beyond the outer layer to see what’s inside. Who knew a spider could be so loving? Not only that, Charlotte inspires all the animals to come together as a family. This feel-good movie also has a terrific music score by Danny Elfman. A highlight is Ordinary Miracle, a new song co-written by David Stewart and Glen Ballard and performed by Sarah McLachlan. Keep the tissues handy! Jane Louise Boursaw is a freelance journalist specializing in the movie and television industries. Email her at email@example.com.