Reviewed by: Sheri McMurray
|Featuring:||Dakota Fanning, Julia Roberts, Oprah Winfrey, Dominic Scott Kay, John Cleese|
|Producer:||Paul Neesan, Edgar Bronfman, Sr., Julia Pistor|
“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.