One of the better children's movies of 2006, Charlotte's Web was a surprising failure at the box office. This is a film that, marketed right, could have opened huge and finished even bigger, given that it is based on one of the most popular and well known children's books (by E.B. White). Instead, it opened small, ended adequately, and quietly made its way to DVD.
Parents, listen up! While not priceless, Charlotte's Web is an enjoyable, entertaining and family-safe film that stays true to the book (as much as I can remember) and offers plenty of laughs. Not quite as good as Babe but certainly a fun film, Charlotte's Web offers plenty of cute, entertaining characters - including a horse that's scared of spiders, sheep that tend to mimic one another, a selfish rat and one very, very, very cute pig. Kids and adults, especially adults who remember the book from their childhood, will get a kick out of this adaptation. Director Gary Winick, who also did the surprisingly good 13 Going On 30, deserves props for staying true to the book without making it dull.
My only real problem with the film is Dakota Fanning. In general, I'm a pretty big fan of Fanning - she chooses good films and is a quality actress - but if there's one role she can't play, it's that of an ordinary little girl. She'd be smart to stick to more adult-oriented roles, as she is just too articulate, too smart and too "old-sounding" for her own good. She isn't awful in Charlotte's Web by any means, but this movie would have been a good opportunity for some lesser known child to get a starring role. Of course, Fanning isn't the real star of the show, as the animals get a lot more screen time than her (and the animals are voiced by actors such as Julia Roberts, Steve Buscemi, John Cleese, Oprah Winfrey, Robert Redford and more).
Charlotte's Web is a fun and quality adaptation of a classic children's story. It isn't without its issues, but its faithfulness to the subject and ability to make even a 20-something-year-old laugh repeatedly, all the while maintaining a true, family-safe presentation, makes it a worthy pick for parents.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.
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