Review: Charlotte's Web

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It's based on an immortal story that has charmed generations for decades. "Charlotte's Web" is often referred to by a lot of people as the best children's book ever written and remembered as a lot of people's favorite book from when they were a child. It is timeless.

The film version of Charlotte's Web is as timeless as the book. It will probably be remembered for generations as a children's classic. It will sell millions and parents will snuggle up with their kids and enjoy it again and again.

If you don't know the story already, here is a brief description. Wilbur the pig is the runt of a rather large litter and we all know what happens to runts. Wilbur is saved by Fern (Dakota Fanning) and sent to live in a barn with a lot of other animals, including a rather intuitive spider named Charlotte (voiced by Julia Roberts). The more Wilbur grows, the more he learns about his destiny and why he may never see the first snowfall. Charlotte and Wilbur develop a tender friendship and Charlotte promises Wilbur that he will see the first snowfall. She doesn't know how, but there has to be a way to catch the farmer's attention and convince him Wilbur is special.

The story is about life, death, friendship, love, and hope. It details all the beautiful things that make life grand. It also is almost an introduction to young minds to what to expect and to cherish.

Dakota Fanning once again is brilliant as the ever-devoted Fern who rescues Wilbur. There are oodles of celebrity voices for the animals, but probably the ones that stick out the most are Julia Roberts as Charlotte, John Cleese as Samuel the Sheep, Steve Buscemi as Templeton the Rat, and Thomas Haden Church as Brooks the Crow. There are other voices from Robert Redford, Oprah Winfrey, and others, but they just aren't recognizable. Who knew Robert Redford was even in the film?

My favorite sequences away from Wilbur were of the crows and their obsession with "corn". They are utterly hilarious. Thomas Haden Church saying "I gotta get me some corn!" almost made me fall out of my seat.

A lot people are probably going to be talking about the celebrities as the animals, but I bet that a lot of people aren't going to acknowledge how good the boy was who played Wilbur. Ten-year-old Dominic Scott Kay made that character his own and brought so much heart and warmth to that pig.

There will probably be some controversy on the animators softening the features of a spider as they did with Charlotte here, but I felt that was properly addressed for a children's feature. I thought the CGI-animation of Charlotte was fantastic and especially magical as we watch her spin a web.

My only slight problem with the film were the mother's visits to the psychologist's office. I didn't really feel that they were necessary and could have all been addressed in dialogue between mother and father. All the scenes did was accent the doubt the mother had in her daughter. Why do parents all of a sudden think their child is crazy when they do something different or something they wouldn't?

I have said it before and I will say it again: this is a children's movie classic in the making and you don't often hear about those coming out of Hollywood these days when we get such horrendous family fare like The Santa Clause 3 and Are We There Yet?. This is the best children's movie since Finding Nemo. (4.5 out of 5) So Says the Soothsayer.

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