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 Charlotte's Web
 Critic's Rating
   [C+]
 Date Posted
   26th January, 2007
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Cast: Dakota Fanning, Julia Roberts, Steve Buscemi
Director: Gary Winick

The live action adaptation of the celebrated children's book, Charlotte's web is a mixed bag. If I were to use the same set of guidelines as the one used for movies made for the same target audience, such as the recent Happy Feet to make a judgement of it (barring animation), then it has everything except high entertainment value. The story is very pleasant, and it certainly felt that way judging by the frenzied excitement of the many little ones with whom I attended the packed screening. The film features Julia Roberts as the voice of Charlotte the spider, who devises ingenious methods to save a newly born Spring pig, Wilbur, from becoming Christmas dinner. The method, interpreted as miracles by the farmers on whose farm these and other animals live, involves Charlotte spinning words using her special abilities, onto her spider web to describe Wilbur. This includes words such as 'Some pig', 'Terrific', 'Humble' and so on.

I understood what the filmakers were upto. It was a noble attempt at letting the film be more than just entertaining, and allowing the young audience members a chance at exploring the wonderful world of verbal construction and the power of the written word, but in doing so, 'Charlotte's web' sacrificed its spontaneity, needed to make spunky entertainment for children (and especially their adult escorts) work. Case in point was how the film tried to explain to the children in attendence, jokes that were meant primarily for adults, such as when a rat, terrifically voiced by Steve Buscemi, used the term 'last one out is a rotten egg' to describe both the usage of the term and the fact that one of the eggs of a family of geese had not hatched. Imagine how stop and start Disney's 'The Incredibles' might have been had the film taken time to explain itself everytime it was being smart. Thankfully, the movie is short, and this continued assualt of cuteness crossed with pontification did not last long very long. Though I cannot recommend the film with any positive earnest, it might be a satisfying cinema going experience considering the excellent and almost seamless animal speech effects, which convey the mannerisms of the creatures in fitting, almost characteristic ways. - Faizan Rashid

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