Charlotte's Web

 
Directed by: Gary Winick
Written by:Susannah Grant, Karey Kirkpatrick
Starring: Julia Roberts, Dakota Fanning, Steve Buscemi, Dominic Kay, John Cleese, Oprah Winfrey, Cedric The Entertainer, Kathy Bates
Released: December 7, 2006
Grade: A-

I’ve been sticking the boot in family films all year.  I’m sick of talking animals, predictable humour and limited storylines.  Luckily for the studios, kids don’t care.  They just want to go to the movies, run up and down the aisle and scream a lot.  Okay, so I don’t fit into the target audience but what can I do?  I can’t sit here and praise a boring kid’s flick with no originality.  I call it as I see it.

I point this out because I really enjoyed Charlotte’s Web.  It surpasses all other family releases in 2006.  If I had to give one reason why then it’s because this is a great story.  It’s based on a beloved novel which has been read by millions of children since first published in 1952.  This isn’t a half-baked screenplay cooked up to sell happy meal toys at McDonalds (call me a cynic).

If you’re struggling to remember the tale, Charlotte is a spider who lives in a barn with an assortment of animals.  Over the summer, she becomes friends with an unwanted pig named Wilbur.  When the naive Wilbur learns that he’ll be cooked for Christmas dinner, Charlotte’s takes it upon herself to help out.  What web can she spin up?

I’ve greatly simplified what is a rich and emotive story.  There’s not a positive adjective that hasn’t already been used to describe it.  Thankfully for us moviegoers, the essence and heart of the film haven’t been lost on its translation to the big screen.  The events unfold at a perfect pace – it’s never rushed but there’s never a dull moment.  Screenwriters Susanna Grant (In Her Shoes) and Karey Kirkpatrick (Chicken Run) have done a top job adapting E.B. White’s novel.

The film is shot with live action as opposed to animation.  The animals talk with the help of wonderful special effects.  The look is very similar to that created for Babe, the classic which 7 Academy Award nominations in 1996.  The similarities don’t end there.  Not only is a pig centre stage but both films were shot here in Australia.  Babe was filmed in New South Wales with Charlotte’s Web filmed across the border in Victoria.

Many Hollywood stars have leant their voices to the production.  They include Julia Roberts (as Charlotte), John Cleese, Oprah Winfrey, Kathy Bates and Cedric The Entertainer.  My favourite was Steve Buscemi as Templeton, a self-absorbed rat who loves to eat.

Released to coincide with the Christmas school holidays, Charlotte’s Web is a true family movie.  Furthermore, you don’t have to be a kid to enjoy it.