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Movie Review

Charlotte’s Web

Reviewed by: Sheri McMurray
CONTRIBUTOR

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Moviemaking Quality:

Primary Audience:
Kids, Family
Genre:
Drama, Kids, Family, Adaptation
Length:
1 hr. 38 min.
Year of Release:
2006
USA Release:
December 15, 2006 (wide)
Copyright, Paramount Pictures
Copyright, Paramount Pictures
Copyright, Paramount Pictures
Copyright, Paramount Pictures
Copyright, Paramount Pictures
Copyright, Paramount Pictures
Copyright, Paramount Pictures
Copyright, Paramount Pictures
Copyright, Paramount Pictures
Copyright, Paramount Pictures
Relevant Issues
Copyright, Paramount Pictures

Pigs in the Bible

Spiders in the Bible

Animals in the Bible

click for Kid Explorers
Adventures in the rainforest! Learn about the Creator of the universe by exploring His marvelous creation. Fun for the whole family with games, activities, stories, answers to children’s questions, color pages, and more! One of the Web’s first and most popular Christian Web sites for children. Nonprofit, evangelical, nondenominational.
Featuring: Dakota Fanning, Julia Roberts, Oprah Winfrey, Dominic Scott Kay, John Cleese
Director: Gary Winick
Producer: Paul Neesan, Edgar Bronfman, Sr., Julia Pistor
Distributor: Paramount Pictures

“Help is coming from above.”

“Charlotte’s Web” is a tale of unconditional, selfless love. A love not unlike that of our Savior. The story’s beauty lies in its simplicity. I was moved deeply by this faithful presentation of E. B. White’s timeless classic children’s story.

Charlotte (the soothing voice of Julia Roberts), a spider whose loveliness lies not in her outward physical appearance, but in her heart, gives herself over for the life of another. This “other” is a little pig named Wilbur (soulful and sweet Dominic Scott Kay) who has come to live in Mr. Zuckerman’s barn after being saved from the axe by a little girl with a big heart for Wilbur, the runt of the litter.

Fern (engaging as always, Dakota Fanning) loves and cares for Wilbur from his birth, until he becomes too big to stay with her in the house. She complies with her father’s advice that a pig must be in the barn with the other farm animals, even if he is a greatly loved pig.

Wilbur is so lonely in the barn that he starts chatting with the feared and misunderstood Charlotte. Wilbur thinks Charlotte is beautiful, when all the other animals thinks she is hideous. Charlotte, it turns out is not the creepy thing that all the animals assumed her to be. Instead she shows a great love and wisdom that no one knew she possessed until little Wilbur arrived.

As Samuel (John Cleese) the individual sheep, and Ike (Robert Redford in a surprising turn) the scardy-cat horse, Gussy (Oprah Winfrey) and Golly (Cedric the Entertainer) the studering geese, Bitsy (Kathy Bates) and Betsy (Reba McEntire) the cows get to know Wilbur they also forge a friendship with Charlotte. But it’s Templeton (Steve Buscemi) the pack rat that says it like it is. Wilbur is a spring pig, and spring pigs turn into Christmas dinner!

Fern knows poor little Wilbur’s fate and starts thinking hard about a plan to keep Wilbur from the smokehouse. Charlotte promises Wilbur she won’t let them kill him and also promises that he will be the first Spring pig to see the Winter snow.

It seems that only a miracle can save Wilbur, and Charlotte decides the miracle she will provide is spinning words into her web to describe the “radiant,” “terrific,” yet “humble” Wilbur she knows. Starting with the description “some pig” spun into her web, Wilbur soon becomes farmer Zuckerman’s Famous Pig with the news media swarming the farm to take pictures of the back-flipping Wilbur and of the miracle web in the corner of the barn.

Fern convinces the family that the radiant Wilbur should be entered in the local 4-H fair, where he wins a special medal as a token of the amazement and appreciation the regular people of Sommerset County have for the sweet little pig. With the help of his friends, Fern, and the ever supportive Charlotte, Wilbur proves he really is “some pig.”

For most of us, the 4-H Fair is not the conclusion to Wilbur’s life lessons, as we know the end is actually the natural cycle of life that Charlotte takes as she languishes after cacooning her 114 offspring and faces her death as the natural result.

Underneath the basic exterior of “Charlotte’s Web,” which includes a memorable collection of barnyard characters, is really the unforgettable lessons about life. Among its recognizable cast members are: the geese, who serve as a constant reminders to Wilbur’s imminent demise; Templeton, the incorrigible rat, whose base instinct for food makes him an easy target for bribery; Wilbur, the “Terrific,” “Radiant,” “Humble” pig, whose natural desire for companionship earns him the most unlikely of loyal friends; and Charlotte herself, an ordinary brown spider whose devotion transcends the realm of the extraordinary. In an ordinary red barn, the most illuminating of relationships begins, where one random act of kindness saves a little pig’s life and one relationship is forged that even death itself cannot sever. Miracles abound and are not given the usual hokiness most other current children’s movies have lately.

Templeton the rat states, as a rat “we were here long before you and will be here long after you” which I took as a reference to evolution. There are lots of animal noises, burps, passing wind, slobbering, and overall stuff which make kids laugh, that some parents may find objectionable. Yet, in the final view “Charlotte’s Web” is a sweet down-to-earth movie with a very heavenly message about unconditional love, and sacrifice that must not be lost because of a couple of burps and animal noises.

All in all the movie soothes the viewer and leaves one with a warmth that lingers after you leave the theater. Giving someone “something to believe in” at Christmas is a statement full of promise. I wonder if Nickelodeon and Paramount Pictures really know the power in that statement?

The film and book by E.B. White (the book has sold more than 45 million copies and been translated into 23 languages) basic message is love, loyalty and sacrifice. “It is not often that someone comes along who is a true friend and a good writer. Charlotte was both.” She teaches her friends that the right words can change everything. Charlotte says that “with the right words you can change the world,” but it’s the more powerful spiritual message that goes far beyond words that will change the world. And having a right heart can produce love that endures forever.

Charlotte’s Web comes at just the right time, at a time when as they say in the movie “When we don’t see many miraculous things.” It is rare when a film comes along that makes you laugh and cry, all at the same time. The overall spiritual message is very heart warming and just right for the child’s mind to comprehend. And the catch phrase “Help is coming from above.” This is a pretty heavenly statement for Nickelodeon to make, considering it’s latest efforts which includes the visually-weird and slacker-is-cool “Barnyard” and the questionable “Nacho Libre” do not cater to the spiritual message of salvation and sacrifice. It is an absolutely pleasant surprise for me, to say the least, that a film with such a profound spiritual meaning would come out of the scripts of Nickelodeon.

The musical score by the extremely talented Danny Elfman deserves mentioning. It adds so much to the emotional impact of this film and cannot be overlooked. The main theme song sung by Sara McLachlan, “Ordinary Miracle,” denotes volumes about the true meaning of “Charlotte’s Web.” Our lives are given to us as a purpose. Every one of us is a miracle of God. Even the tiny raindrop and our waking up every day is given to us by our Heavenly Father. Each is an “ordinary” miracle.

I suggest parents take their children to the “Charlotte’s Web” Web site and descover all the wonderful games and art corners along with clips from the film. Walden Media also has a great site that includes clips and discussion areas about the film.

Charlotte’s beauty came from the miracle of the beautiful friendship she forged with Wilbur, and in so doing the message of the bond of love through friendship looks beyond what she looked like or even how she survived as a spider. She tells Wilbur that “friends make everyone beautiful,” and that her friendship and love for him was the true miracle.

We, by making Jesus our friend, can show others how truly beautiful a relationship with Him is. And in so doing can banish all fears or indifference others may hold about Him. This Christmas, let’s be as Wilbur and show our love for our true friend and Saviour, Jesus Christ. Let’s tell them about His selfless, unconditional, sacrificial love for us!

At Christmas time especially, “Charlotte’s Web” will become an instant classic the entire family will want to watch over again on DVD. Terrific, Radiant and humble. Now that’s some movie!

Violence: None / Profanity: None / Sex/Nudity: None

See list of Relevant Issues—questions-and-answers.


Viewer CommentsSend your comments
Comments below:
Positive
Positive—“Charlotte’s Web,” despite what some critics says, I thoroughly enjoyed this live adaptation of the same classic titled book by E.B. White. Here’s a story about friendships and sacrifices. It’s about miracles and life’s affirmations. It’s about beauty from within, and not just what is on the surface. With an all star casts too many to list have done an excellent job, and the production value are outstanding except for the geese, Gussy and Golly, sometimes they’re straight out from Sesame Street puppetry (to mildly compliment).

The script is smart and brings out some of the book’s settings to life and overdone in others—especially, the writers are trying too hard to illicit humors. The most entertaining of these humors are the addition of the two crows, Brooks and Elwyn. Overall, I highly recommend this for the whole family, and if you like it, read the book (if you have not already) and also, check out the classic 1973 animated version.
My Ratings: Excellent! / 4½
—Mang Yang, age 34
Positive—It seems so rare these days for a G-rated movie to come out at the movies. Most animated movies seem to be PG these days with questionable material for small children—for example “Happy Feet.” That is why my wife and I were excited to see the availability of the G-rated “Charlotte’s Web” this Christmas season. We took our 3 and 6 year old to see it, and we all loved it. Very clean and nothing offensive, unless you find a couple of jokes about a cow’s flatulation offensive. We felt it had a good message and a fun and enjoyable story. The ending was a little sad, but it did not seem to bother our children. I would highly recommend this movie, especially if you are like me and are tired of all of the animated movies with questionable material.
My Ratings: Excellent! / 5
—Brad Echols, age 35
Positive—One word comes to mind about this film—refreshing. Our family was so excited to see that a movie had come out that was rated “G”—and a classic story as well. My husband and I took our children, ages 4 and 6, their grandparents, and our nephews, ages 10, 8, and 6 to see this movie. It was refreshing to see a movie with no foul language—it seems the disturbing trend these days to use the Lord’s name in vain in movies, even ones for children. This movie didn’t have that or any other bad words. The story was touching and one of true loyalty. The only thing that might disturb young viewers is the death of Charlotte in the end. I would rate this movie as excellent, and I challenge Hollywood to produce more movies such as this one and “The Nativity Story” (which was also excellent) so that families can enjoy trips to the movie theater.
My Ratings: Excellent! / 5
—Penny, age 33
Positive—Beautiful! Also, the movie seems true to the book, as I recall it from reading it maybe 20 years ago. The characters are engaging, and the animals are beautifully-animated. (The people animated themselves; animal actors need help.) Funny, sad and hopeful. The major lessons are the values of: 1-seeing the beautiful in others, where most people see none, 2-the importance of friendship, 3-never give up!, 4-keeping our promises. I was never bored! There are some rather uncouth actions on the part of Templeton, the rat—exactly as in the book. He belches. He’s selfish—but in danger of actually caring. He’s helpful, even though he’s only doing it for selfish reasons. He’s not held up for emulation.
My Ratings: Good / 5
—Sharon Brown, age 55
Positive—This movie was refreshing from a Mom’s point of view. I watched it twice with my kids. I loved it. Even my husband liked it. Charlotte’s Web: teaches the true meaning of friendship and standing on one’s word (A Promise). Charlotte makes a promise to Wilbur and she does everything in her power to make it happen. The animals in the barn are so funny. Parents take your entire family. Great movie… A++++++
My Ratings: Excellent! / 5
—Melissa, age 33
Positive—This was a very entertaining movie—great for the whole family. It emphasizes the worth of all—even the smallest among us.
My Ratings: Better than Average / 5
—Wil Reed, age 37
Positive—Thank God for the revelation on God’s undeserved favour and grace that is given to us through the work of Jesus on the cross. In this film, I realised that Charlotte was just like Jesus, only at the point when she was dying, after she made Wilbur the winner at the fair, saving his life. When she has exalted him to the highest, she died. Just as how the blood of Jesus has cleansed us and make us righteous and acceptable in the eyes of God, Charlotte calls Wilbur (the gentile pig) “some pig,” “terrific” and “radiant.” Just like how Jesus would only have words of comfort and encouragement for us. When Wilbur found out that Charlotte was dying and not about to go back to the barn with him, he cried out to her, saying (along these words) 'But I did not do anything to earn this… It was all you. You can’t just die now…'

And Charlotte in her last breath say, 'Yes, you did do something… you have accepted me as a friend…' Jesus, thank you for speaking to me. Bless this film to speak to others, too. …
My Ratings: Excellent! / 4
—Alex, age 31
Negative

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Comments from young people
Positive—I was skeptical of seeing this movie at first, since I didn’t particularly enjoy the old animated version of “Charlotte’s Web” when I was a kid because it always seemed so dark and un-real to me. Plus, the fact that I’m scared to death of spiders, kept me from wanting to see this movie. But my sister and I were bored, and so we decided to go see it and just check it out to see how it would be. WOW!!! We were truly amazed at how well this movie was done! Dakota Fanning (Fern) portrayed her character well as she has in the last two movies I’ve seen her in (she is an amazing young actor!) and this movie really brought to life, the old story of “Charlotte’s Web.” It drew you in to the characters really fast, when in the book and the old movie, it didn’t really have much about her parents or brother, where in this movie it did. It made you want to jump in and live a farm life. The acting was wonderful and the farm scenery and settings really brought my imagination to life. I loved it and loved the warmth that each of the families brought in this film. Definitely bring ya’lls kids and siblings to see this movie! It’s one of my favorites along with “Cars” and “Monsters Inc.” Great job!!
My Ratings: Excellent! / 5
—Sarah, age 19
Positive—This movie is extremely touching. It brought tears to my cousin, who is 19, and I have to admit, I almost cried. It also delivers a message of friendship: two working together, though they may be enemies, can benefit for both, and sometimes more. Though I did not want to see this movie in the first place because it was originally planned with my friends that we would watch happy feet, I do not regret, at all, spending my money to see this movie, surprisingly, it wasn’t a cartoon either! The title may not suggest an interesting or intriguing movie, but it is truly …indescribably, AMAZING. I think this movie may, actually, have a positive impact on people: it shows the many human traits and how they can be transformed because of one cause. I highly, highly, recommend this movie. However, I do not recommend this movie to people with arachnophobia due to the representation of the spider in this movie: it is extremely …interestingly gross.
My Ratings: Excellent! / 4½
—Clifford Lam, age 14
Positive—I went to see this movie with my parents, 11 year old sister, 7 year old brother, and 5 year old sister. We all loved it! There was absolutely no objectionable content. There was no sexual content or language. There was no violence. I suppose very young or sensitive children could be upset by the threat of Wilbur being cooked for Christmas (he isn’t). *Spoiler Warning* The only other upsetting element is when Charlotte dies near the end. But it does end happily and lightly. I admit, I didn’t go to this movie willingly. My younger siblings wanted to see it and I thought it would be a children’s movie. But I was captivated from beginning to end. Absolutely endearing!
My Ratings: Better than Average / 4½
—Lisa Purvis, age 15
Positive—This movie was cute funny and great for kids. I’m a child of god, and I know when I should watch good or bad things, and if you know, too, I would strongly urge you to watch more movies like this. It was a touching movie that children of all ages can relate to. When you want a friend not to judge someone till you know them. so go and watch this film, and this isn’t for kids teenagers; I’m 13, and this is one of the best films I’ve watched and I’m sure you will enjoy it too.
My Ratings: Excellent! / 5
—Dorothy McConnell, age 13
Positive—I loved this movie!! It was one of the best remakes ever. I would recomend this movie to any type of person for any kind of occasion. The movie was kind of depressing, but, overall, SEE IT!!!
My Ratings: Good / 4½
—Julia, age 13
Positive—“Charlotte’s Web” is a very good movie that I think the whole family would love! The movie was very clean (no language, etc.) and I found that very refreshing, considering movies nowadays. My little brother practically adores this movie, and my youngest sister loved all the farm animals. The characters in the movie are great role models for younger kids (Wilber is a great friend, Charlotte is loyal, etc.) and there’s stuff for even the older kids! I think this movie had a great message about friendship and loyalty, and it’s an awesome movie to add to your DVD library.
My Ratings: Good / 5
—Sarah, age 17