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what do you get when you combine the acting talents of young dakota fanning with an all-star cast and mix it with the classic tale of a pig named wilbur and his spider friend charlotte? the answer is easy. you get what appears to be a great film at first look, but really is only a fair adaptation which pales in comparison to the book in which it is based on.
gary winick's take on e.b. white's 1952 novel 'charlotte's web' tells the tale of a young pig named wilbur who here is voiced by dominic scott kay. late one night just as he is about to be slaughtered for being a runt he is saved by a young girl. fern, played by dakota fanning, rushes in and promises to care for him and in doing so inevitably ends up spending all her free time with him. soon though wilbur grows to be a bit too big to remain in the house. fern's mother then decides it is time for him to go and live across the road in her uncle's barn. reluctantly fern agrees. once there wilbur befriends what is considered to be a hideous creature residing within the corner of the barn's entrance. this creature would be the spider named charlotte a. cavatica who is voiced by julia roberts. as time passes wilbur eventually learns of the fate all spring pigs such as himself meet in the winter. it is then that charlotte promises wilbur she will not let him meet that fate and he will indeed see the first snow of winter. now it's all up to charlotte to find a way to get the message across to fern's uncle and everyone else that wilbur is anything but ordinary.
'charlotte's web' was one of the few films i was really looking forward to this year. i honestly don't know what it was but there was something about the trailer that when i first saw it made me go wow. now that i've finally seen the film i look back at that trailer and say wow. only this time it's not the original wow of awe i had. it is a wow of realization that not only is the book better than the film, but so is the trailer. i was hoping for excellence. the only thing excellent i saw was julia robert's voice performance which is boosted by the interesting cgi character design created for charlotte.
even though the story is great, the film does not manage to pull its weight. ninety percent of the film is done with the camera remaining still. this makes the scenes seem one dimensional and dull. the all-star cast is a bit of a problem as well. since i knew and recognized every person playing each character it was hard to not focus on that aspect. the irony of oprah winfrey playing a chatty goose is just too funny to not snicker at over and over again.
despite those things though, we have to remember who this film was made for: kids. i don't believe they are going to even know who most of the people playing the characters are, much less care how the film was shot. the constant jokes will be enough the keep them happy and entertained. so even though it falls flat by normal standards the fact that it can be enjoyed by children makes it okay in my book.
- originally written on december 16, 2006
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