Everyone who has read this classic children’s book (and that is many, many people) has been moved by its simplicity and beautiful messages about friendship and looking beyond the physical to find beauty. I challenge someone to read it and not to cry or at least to be moved so much that they are repressing a cry. I believe it to be impossible!
Director Gary Winick (13 Going On 30, Tadpole) has done a wonderful job keeping the story simple and moving while meshing live action with CGI creations. Even though he has a ton of big (and I mean big) name actors/celebrities doing the voices the film never becomes about them; the real focal point is the beautiful story. Though I do have to give special props to Julia Roberts who does a wonderful job and whose voice is perfect for Charlotte. The special effects (talking animals, etc.) are so good that you believe what is going on onscreen and are able to just lose yourself in the story.
The film’s message is never allowed to get too heavy for kids with its fun and jokes throughout, but kids are still able to see the beauty of friendship, sacrifice, loyalty, and determination. In most instances the original language of the novel is kept and the character of Charlotte is not ‘dumbed’ down. She is as intelligent and verbose as in the book. Bravo to the filmmakers for having faith in today’s youth!
It is quite an undertaking for a director to bring to the big screen a classic novel and Winick has obviously not undertaken that lightly. He certainly shows himself up to the challenge. The film ends up being one of the few remakes that is just as good as or better than the original. I hope it will push kids today into reading the novel. Watch this with your children (or by yourself) and spend a priceless couple of hours with them.
A sow gives birth on the Arable farm. She has 11 piglets but only 10 teats and Mr. Arable (Kevin Anderson – A Thousand Acres, Hoffa) decides that he is going to have to kill the runt. His daughter Fern (Dakota Fanning – War of the Worlds, Man on Fire) protests and says that she will take care of the piglet. She wins out and names the piglet Wilbur (Dominic Scott Kay – Minority Report, The Wild). Fern spends all her time with Wilbur, which worries her mother (Essie Davis – The Matrix Revolutions, Girl With the Pearl Earring), treating him like he was her baby.
Soon the Arables can no longer keep Wilbur and Fern and her parents agree that he is to go live at the Zuckermans’ farm across the road. Wilbur is confused about the move and is not exactly welcomed by the inhabitants of the barn, including Samuel (John Cleese – Life of Brian, A Fish Called Wanda) the sheep, Ike (Robert Redford – Indecent Proposal, A River Runs Through It) the horse, Gussy (Oprah Winfrey – The Color Purple, Beloved) and Golly (Cedric the Entertainer – The Honeymooners, Madagascar) the geese, Bitsy (Kathy Bates – Titanic, Dolores Claiborne) and Betsy (Reba McEntire – from television’s Reba) the cows, and Templeton (Steve Buscemi – Armageddon, The Big Lebowski) the rat.
Wilbur, even though Fern visits him every day, is lonely. That is until he meets Charlotte (Julia Roberts – My Best Friend’s Wedding, Dying Young) the spider. At first everyone is frightened, especially Ike, of Charlotte, but soon her wit and intelligence wins them over. Charlotte explains to Wilbur that a spring pig is called that because they never get to see the winter as they are slaughtered beforehand. Wilbur is a spring pig. Charlotte, with the help of the other animals, tries to come up with an idea of how to save Wilbur before it is too late.
-Music Video: “Ordinary Miracle” by Sarah McLachlan