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Charlotte's Web
How could this movie possibly fail?
Dakota Fanning Stars in "Charlotte's Web".
OPENING WEEKEND: $51,000,000
DOMESTIC TOTAL: $244,000,000
  This Film is NOT a Future Release.
  The Following Preview has been Archived.

May 28th, 2006: When Wilbur the pig is born, his life is immediately in danger. As is the custom in many farms, his inadequate size at birth prompts Mr. Arable to throw him under the axe, thinking that by doing so he will put the little runt out of his misery. Thanks to the intervention by Mr. Arable’s sensitive daughter Fern (Dakota Fanning), Wilbur is spared, adopted, and allowed to grow up as the little girl’s pet and friend. With time, he bulks up and moves out into the barn, where he meets a whole host of new and friendly animal buddies, like Gussy the mother goose (Oprah Winfrey), Golly the father goose (Cedric the Entertainer), Samuel the sheep (John Cleese), and Templeton the rat (Steve Buscemi). An unlikely, but very authentic bond develops between Wilbur and the resident spider named Charlotte (Julia Roberts) that inspires all the animals to come together as a family. When word comes out that Wilbur is destined to become supper after all, the animals, and especially Charlotte, rally to try to save him. His one hope is to be entered in the state fair and avoid death by winning the competition against other pigs.

What to Expect: The film is based on the classic kids’ book, which was recently listed as the best selling children’s paperback of all time, having sold approximately 45 million copies across the world. Award-winning author E.B. White penned the novel, which was first published in 1952, with illustrations provided by Garth Williams. The book seems like an uncomplicated yarn, but has long been considered a beloved read even for adults due to its witty, whimsical, and wonderful nature. The heartwarming story touched on those essential lessons of life, death, sacrifice, and true friendship. In 1973, Hanna-Barbera adapted the novel into a successful animated musical, which was admired by critics and audiences alike. The movie featured the voices of Debbie Reynolds, Paul Lynde, Henry Gibson, Danny Bonaduce, Agnes Moorehead, and Charles Nelson Reilly and retained the book’s tenderness and compassion. Up until now, it was the only big-screen rendering of the novel.

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Compared to the new adaptation, the original one does seem pretty meek, primarily in the cast department. Hollywood giants have not shied away from making a contribution to the current production. Since the barn in “Charlotte’s Web” features an assortment of remarkable animal characters, I should probably cover the stars that will voice them. In what may be a rare big-screen appearance for her from now on, Oscar winner Julia Roberts will voice Charlotte, the spider. She’s an excellent choice, partly due to the natural sincerity in her voice. Talk show queen Oprah Winfrey, who will voice Gussy, the barn’s mother goose, is another rarity on the big screen and is quite a fantastic acquisition for the producers. Comedian Cedric the Entertainer will portray her partner Golly, the father goose. John Cleese, who has one of the most distinct voices in show business, will voice Samuel the sheep. In a very fitting bit of casting, Steve Buscemi will play Templeton the rat. Country singer Reba McEntire and Acadamy Award winner Kathy Bates will voice Betsy and Bitsy, the barn’s two sarcastic cows. Recent Oscar nominee Thomas Haden Church and rapper Andre 3000 will team up to play the two dimwitted crows, Brooks and Elwyn. Finally, the legendary Robert Redford, who also rarely takes parts in feature films these days, will play Ike, the horse that’s terrified of spiders. That’s quite a gathering of talents from several different areas of entertainment. I particularly like that all the big name actors have been slated to provide voices for the animals, while the human parts have been filled by recognizable, but lesser known character actors. Of course, child superstar Dakota Fanning is the only exception to the rule since she will play Fern.

There are two huge factors to consider that almost guarantee that Charlotte’s Web will not fail: the unbelievable cast, and the classic, heartwarming story that has worked for ages as a book and as an animated musical. Of the family films releasing in 2006, this one tops them all in terms of the casting and choice of story. Director Gary Winick (13 Going on 30), does not have an impressive resume, but he’s been handed a nearly infallible project. Any filmmaker with rudimentary Hollywood experience should be able to carry out this adaptation at least up to par. The affectionate story of Wilbur, the humble pig, brings to mind another superb family film about a pig with personality, namely Babe. That movie was good enough to contend for a Best Picture Academy Award, which it eventually lost to The English Patient. I do not see Oscar glory for Charlotte’s Web, but rather undeniable box-office success. The simple, solid, family friendly adventure should truly delight the younger audiences.

In Conclusion: It has the perfect story, the perfect cast, and a prime spot for release during the holiday season. It would be foolish to bet against Charlotte’s Web come wintertime. The combination of live action and CGI also inspires promise. Of all the family films this year, this movie is least likely to fail; although that does not necessarily qualify it for all awards and box-office records. In order for it to become an Oscar contender, Gary Winick would have to reach down for something extra – something a bit more stirring beyond the genial story. I’m not sure that he will be able to do that, but I’m certain that Charlotte’s Web will still be a monumental success.

Similar Titles: Babe, Babe: Pig in the City, All Dogs Go To Heaven
December 15th, 2006 (wide)
April 3rd, 2007 (DVD)

Paramount Pictures

Gary Winick

Julia Roberts, Dakota Fanning, Oprah Winfrey, Steve Buscemi, Kathy Bates, John Cleese, Thomas Haden Church, Robert Redford, Cedric the Entertainer, Jennifer Garner, Reba McEntire, André Benjamin

Total: 59 vote(s).

Drama, Fantasy, Kids & Family

Click here to view site

Rated G

97 min






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