I really enjoyed the little segments involving the crows trying to outwit the scarecrow. Their obsession with getting past the scarecrow that they’re convinced is following them since he’s in every corn field, is pretty funny. Andre Benjamin and Thomas Haden Church do a bang up job with voice work, and it’s a very good bright spot for the film. The mismatched friendship between a pig and a spider is touching, only because this spider is keeping this runt of a pig from dying. What makes “Charlotte’s Web” works, even in this sub-par form, is the ability for these two individuals to find friendship in spite of their differences.
Wilbur in his infinite naiveté and ignorance is able to look past Charlotte’s creepy appearance and see the soul within her, because he’s simply never met a spider before. As the others are horrified by her, he manages to see behind her and the friendship is utterly touching. I was interested in the chemistry between the two characters yet again, and Julia Roberts adds her own unique touch to Charlotte with her soft unimposing voice that manages to keep Charlotte from completely disgusting audiences. Kids will adore the friendship, as well as the comic relief that never manages to drown out or push aside the overall conflict. Not to mention, Winick and company never undercut the themes of life and death, and the fact that everything will eventually die. And best of all, it never turns into a religious message. The moral is universal and reaches almost all audiences.
I don’t like to feel flim flammed, and “Charlotte’s Web” nags at me that perhaps I am. I spent ninety minutes watching what I perceived as a remake or “adaptation” of the original novel that was turned into a classic cartoon. But I really feel like I was watching a remake of “Babe.” If this star studded, bloated monstrosity didn’t feel like such a con, perhaps I’d have liked it better. As a remake/adaptation, “Charlotte’s Web” really doesn’t have a lot in its favor. Especially when it’s been topped by a cartoon that managed to get the story right. We all know the story already, so why did we have to see a remake? Talking animals are big these days, and that’s a fact; but can “Charlotte’s Web” even entertain when we’ve seen about ninety talking animal films in the last twenty years, ten of which were released since 1999?
I didn’t write off this film completely, I mean kids will love this, but my loyalties lie in the animated movie, mainly because it touched on the emotions of friendship and loyalty more. But “Charlotte’s Web” has the misfortune of making its animal cast seem downright creepy, another reason why animation is the true form for this story. The animated Charlotte had eye lashes, a soft voice, and looked like a sweet woman. Here, she’s a really creepy large spider. In the animated movie, Templeton was a snively and weasely rat who was in it for himself. In here, he’s is just downright creepy, and too realistic to be likable. Kids will love it, I just kind of liked it. For my money the 1973 original is still the sweetest and saddest, while this is just an almost good film with the touching friendship of Wilbur and Charlotte in tact and still pretty darn gripping; it’s no big deal in the end, but it’s not terrible, either.