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Capone Is Ensnared By CHARLOTTE'S WEB!!

Hey, everyone. Sniff, sniff. Capone (sniff) in the sniffle city here. This is just one of those stories that gets me right in the tear ducts. In any form (the E.B. White book, the 1973 animated feature, or this live-action/CGI-enhanced version), Charlotte’s Web is the sweetest, cutest story of self-reliance, big hearts, manners, and self-confidence of all time. I have no idea why, but the friendship between a runt pig and a spider makes me emotional. I’m not trying to appear manly by saying this, but I honestly can’t remember the last time I cried in a movie theater. But I came awfully close at the end of this faithful telling. Dakota Fanning is Fern, the little farm girl who saves the life of the runt of a pig litter, whom she names Wilbur (voiced by Dominic Scott Kay). She cares for the pig, which is living in Fern’s uncle’s barn with a collection of barn animals, and what a collection of voices the filmmakers have assembled. John Cleese plays Samuel the sheep, who is always urging his fellow sheep to stop being followers. Kathy Bates and Reba McEntire play a couple of cows. The stately Ike the horse appropriately enough features Robert Redford’s vocal talents. Cedric the Entertainer and Oprah Winfrey play squabbling geese. No one goes out of the way to be overly jokey, or go beyond the source material. Pleasantry is the order of the day. The one exception is Steve Buscemi’s devious take on Templeton the rat, who reluctantly helps Charlotte the Spider (majestically voiced by Julia Roberts) in acquiring the means to keep Wilbur from getting slaughtered. It’s all here. The miracle messages in Charlotte’s web (“Some Pig” still gets me), the fair, Charlotte’s egg sack, and all the interaction and life lessons passed on from the spider to the pig. The film manages to be sweet and timeless without resorting to cutesy behavior. Even elements like the two crows (the hilarious Andre Benjamin and Thomas Haden Church) who are scared to go into any cornfield because of a mysterious figure who seems to reside in every such filed, is funny without being simple or condescending. And director Gary Winick (13 Going on 30) thankfully does make some of the more traditionally scary characters (like Templeton and Charlotte) cute and cuddly. When I first saw Charlotte, I was a bit started how lifelike she was; even her mouth opens and closes sideways. It’s a simple fact that without Wilbur, the Babe movies simply would never have existed. But there’s a delicacy and grace to Charlotte’s Web that doesn’t exist in most children’s stories, and they make the transition to this movie quite nicely. If a film puts that little tickle in the back of my throat, I have to give it credit for getting to me. Charlotte’s Web is just such a film. Kids will adore it, but adults will be reminded of a time when such simple stories moved them and shaped their outlook and lives.

Capone




Readers Talkback
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  • Dec. 16, 2006, 3:09 p.m. CST

    I'm going to have to check this out

    by Darth Thoth

    I think Ms. Fanning is a simply awesome young actress. She and Keke Palmer are two girls to really keep an eye out on for decades to come.

  • Dec. 16, 2006, 3:11 p.m. CST

    Keep up the great work Capone

    by Darth Thoth

    I always enjoy your reviews and the movies you pick to review. It really adds something to this site. Peace.

  • Dec. 16, 2006, 3:16 p.m. CST

    great review and something that got to me

    by Bloo

    great review Capone, great, touching, simple and giving us all the facts needed, beautiful<p> my complaint isn't about the review it's moron movie reviewers, I read, either on the AP or on Yahoo a reviewer actually refer to Dakota Fanning as the "Charlotte" of "Charlotte's Web" I knew that wasn't right I just rolled my eyes and exited that review. <p> Capone, I don't know if you get paid by this site or not, but I assure you those at Yahoo or AP do and you get it right and they just look stupid, keep it up

  • Dec. 16, 2006, 3:17 p.m. CST

    addenum

    by Bloo

    ...the mistake I mentioned in the previous comment is the kind of mistake the AICN gets blasted for, weather truthfully or not so I thought it was funny<p> also funny, I'm sorry at least I got a chuckle out of Reba and Kathy Bates playing cows, made me laugh...alot

  • Dec. 16, 2006, 3:24 p.m. CST

    well, I for one will be seeing this movie.

    by moondoggy2u

    What can I say? I'm a deffite fan of that children's story.

  • Dec. 16, 2006, 3:27 p.m. CST

    Still, Capone's review aside,

    by moondoggy2u

    My biggest fear is that this film will given the dreamworks treatment (ie, instantly forgetable pop references and unremarkable direction combined with the voices of every celebrity imaginable that Dreamworks can shmooze into an AR session).

  • Dec. 16, 2006, 3:42 p.m. CST

    Torture porn with a pig, a spider and a little girl?

    by DerLanghaarige

    Too soon!

  • Dec. 16, 2006, 3:44 p.m. CST

    Go Dakota Fanning!

    by DarthDooku

    She's such an amazing actress, i only hope Hollywood will recognize that and give her many leading roles as she grows older.

  • Dec. 16, 2006, 3:45 p.m. CST

    I'm sure the german version will be dubbed by...

    by DerLanghaarige

    ...lots of B- and C-grade celebrities. Oliver Pocher? Verona Feldbusch? Boris Becker? Dieter Bohlen? Mirja Boes? Trust me, they will be there! God bless the DVD!

  • Dec. 16, 2006, 3:52 p.m. CST

    Dakota Fanning's been in more movies than Sam Jackson

    by CTU Mole

    And she's been 11 for like 30 years. That Poltergeist girl didn't die, that's her. She's frozen in carbonite between shoots.

  • Dec. 16, 2006, 4:51 p.m. CST

    Crying

    by The_Bat

    I cry in the story from charlottes death to the baby spiders leaving the nest. I was scarred for life by the book and animated film. If you do not cry during this story then you are not human.

  • Dec. 16, 2006, 5:03 p.m. CST

    Babe and Charlotte's Web

    by The Funketeer

    Capone, you're the best reviewer on this site but I've got to disagree with you on the Babe assessment. Babe was based on a series of novels by Dick King Smith written in the 80s. They are popular among children and very well written. While Charlotte's Web was certainly popular at the time, it's not like there was a resurgence in talking pig movies when Babe came out (although I do remember something called Gordy that flopped miserably). The animated Charlotte's Web was released in the 70s so I'm not sure why it is you think that the Babe movies owe some debt of gratitude to Charlotte. It's not like E.B. White invented the talking animal story. That's like saying Charlotte wouldn't exist without Francis the Talking Mule.

  • Dec. 16, 2006, 5:13 p.m. CST

    The timing is right for a Number the Stars movie.

    by CreasyBear

    Viggo Mortensen as King Christian (he can handle the kingly role, and bonus points for being Danish), Eliza Dushku as Mrs. Rosen (she can play a little older than she is, and she's half-Danish), and if it isn't overkill, Dakota as Annemarie (right age, and, um, she's blonde). For those of you who never read this book as a kid, I recommend you check it out. Apologies for the off-topic.

  • Dec. 16, 2006, 5:28 p.m. CST

    Things that must be asked

    by Immortal_Fish

    <P>What was altered or missing from the source material?<P>What was altered or missing from the famous cartoon adaptation?<P>Which voice actors in this movie did better or worse than the voice actors in the cartoon?<P>Did we really, really need name recognition stars instead of professional voice actors?<P>Is Fanning creepy in this, or is she adorable? If it is the latter, then she's breaking stride.<P>Do Cedric and Oprah unnecessarily "hip hop" it up in this, considering how this should be a rural tale?<P>Why aren't Asian and Latin demographics equally represented among others?

  • Dec. 16, 2006, 5:53 p.m. CST

    Funketeer...

    by Bones

    Babe was definitely inspired by Charlotte's Web. But I am not saying that is a bad thing.<p> As to your other sources:<p> EB White may have written Charlotte's Web after Francis the Talking Mule was in cinemas, but they are very different tales. First of all, EB White wrote the classic Stuart Little in 1945, before Francis came out, starting a series of animal-themed books for White and beating the novel and film of Francis by about four or five years. They are both true Talking Animal stories, wherein the animals talk to human beings. <p> Charlotte's Web, which premiered in print in 1954, does not have the animals talking to people at all, other than the messages that appear in the web. Now it is true that the animals can understand people--but still they do not talk to them. Jump ahead to 1973, when the animated film version came into theatres, investing a whole new generation in the story. <p> The Sheep Pig, which inspired the film Babe was written more than almost thirty years after book Charlotte's Web and ten years after the Hanna-Barbera film, so it is a good guess that they were inspired by Charlotte's Web in some form, as were films that were structured similarly, like most Pixar films, wherein the characters exist along side the human world and react to it. One can make an argument that all these books were inspired by Aesop's Fables and the likes of Orwell's Animal Farm --stories that used animals as cyphers for human beings.<p> Sorry to be long-winded. It will be very interesting to see a new generation get excited about this story!

  • Dec. 16, 2006, 5:58 p.m. CST

    LAME!!

    by CarbonGhost

    I wanna see this one too.

  • Dec. 16, 2006, 6:23 p.m. CST

    You're genetically predisposed to love Charlotte's Web

    by quentintarantado

    You're hardwired to love this movie from the moment of your birth. I'm not saying it's a bad thing. My brother, normally the most sarcastic filmgoer I know, loves anything Nastassja Kinski makes, both good and bad. I can relate with you.

  • Dec. 16, 2006, 9:07 p.m. CST

    Saw this today...

    by robotdevil

    My girlfriend wanted to see this, she's a big fan of the book from when she was a kid. I never read it, but have to say i thought this movie was a great story and I'm wishing i had.

  • Dec. 16, 2006, 10:35 p.m. CST

    Bones

    by The Funketeer

    If memory serves me correctly, Fern was able to talk to the other animals. It's been a while since I've read it though.

  • Dec. 17, 2006, 12:22 a.m. CST

    CW is far more heartbreaking than...

    by Billyeveryteen

    The exit of Bambi's mom.

  • Dec. 17, 2006, 3:45 a.m. CST

    I saw it today too and have a question

    by half vader

    There's a point in the movie where Dakota Fanning/Fern tells her mum the animals talk to her (meant literally) but there's not one scene where she's even in a position where it could be construed figuratively. Can anyone help here? I may have been distracted by my daughters painting themselves with chocolate ice cream. <p> As far as Fanning's performance goes (and I think she's a good actress), I felt like she was directed badly and hardly allowed to show a range of emotion apart from willful, serious, intense, tearful but determined, a fighter and so on. It was like some PC kids' lib thing. The only time the poor kid got to loosen up was an embarrassingly token and clichéd sequence where she goes "WOOOOO!" on a ferris wheel with this little boy. Don't get me wrong though, I liked it, and thought Charlotte was great, especially the design. Hard to make those little freaks look friendly!

  • Dec. 17, 2006, 4:34 a.m. CST

    Does anyone remember, "Watership Down"?

    by Rakafraker

    That movie had the same impact on me as 'the 70's CW. Still love both of those films to this day. I think Dakota can be kinda creepy for certain roles ("Taken", anyone?), but she can still bring a tear to my eye when she pours it on.

  • Dec. 17, 2006, 9:27 a.m. CST

    Half Vadar

    by robotdevil

    My impression was that Fern was speaking figuratively, or at least that her comments were implicitly qualified by the imagination of a child. I can't find anything in the movie that indicates Fern, or any other humans can actually talk to the animals Dr. Dolittle style.

  • Dec. 17, 2006, 10:01 a.m. CST

    Wheres the Ads For this movie?

    by MST3KPIMP

    I dont think I've seen one ad for this movie. In fact the only way I knew of it's release was this website.

  • Dec. 17, 2006, 10:11 a.m. CST

    wow, never thought this would actually be good

    by streakerfreak1983

    but I tend to agree at times with Capone so it must be good. I will still wait to see it on dvd. I think the only two films that have even gotten me close to shedding a tear were Schindler's List and Requiem for a Dream. That shot of Ellen Burstyns(sp?) friends as they first see he broken in the hospital and then the shot of them crying on the bench outside always gets me. I still really surpised about this CW.

  • Dec. 17, 2006, 11:05 a.m. CST

    but you know what I hate dakota fanning

    by streakerfreak1983

    I think that is what brought war of the worlds down. Geez I just felt so bad for Tom. I just wanted to reach through the screen and choke her. You knoe the scene in the mini van where they are speeding down the highway and she is screaming. I was yelling at my tv just to drown out that annoying sound. Just annoying in my view. Could have used someone else for both of these.

  • Dec. 17, 2006, 11:52 a.m. CST

    The animated version was dog shit.

    by Uncle Stan

    I want to vomit whenever some moron gushes about this piece of crap.

  • Dec. 17, 2006, 3:47 p.m. CST

    Someone mentioned Watership Down . . .

    by Nice Marmot

    . . . Do you think a new version in this style w/ the CGI animals against real settings would work? I'd love to see it done, especially if its even grittier and less kid friendly than the original animated film. I'm thinking WETA on effects. Who would your voice cast be?

  • Dec. 17, 2006, 4:18 p.m. CST

    Watership Down

    by rxse7en

    I rented Watership Down and Plague Dogs for my 8-year-old son so he could see some "gritty" animated features. We went through all of the Miyazaki features earlier this year and I have to say, Watership Down and to a lesser extent, Plague Dogs are still very good bits of animated goodness compared to some of today's masterworks. In regards to a CGI Watership Down, I have to say that's one animal CGI flick I'd pay to see. I'm burned out on Over The Hedge, the Wild, Barnyard, Madagascar fluff that's been excreted to us the last few years.

  • Dec. 17, 2006, 9:56 p.m. CST

    I liked it

    by Sir Loin

    Charlotte's Web was very well done, not over-the-top or syrupy sweet. Just the right tone. Magnificent job with the CGI as well, must have been quite a pain to animate Charlotte while she was doing her fancy web-weaving. Worth a look on the bigscreen for sure.

  • Dec. 17, 2006, 11:29 p.m. CST

    yeah if they did it to Animal Farm

    by oisin5199

    they can probably do it to Watership Down. Can you imagine a Henson creature shop take on that? I remember the cartoon being awfully disturbing and even psychedelic in places. I'd see it.

  • Dec. 18, 2006, 12:03 a.m. CST

    I saw it with my daughter...

    by Xorply

    ...and she cried, and a wee tear trickled down my cheek too. The animated is a classic that holds a special place in my movie going heart and this one will sit right next to it. Great movie. Steve Buscemi was a genius of a choice for Templeton.

  • Dec. 18, 2006, 12:04 a.m. CST

    Henson+Watership Down=childhood trauma

    by S-Mart shopper

    I'm all for it! It's been years since I've seen WsD but I'm sure at some point it could still choke me up. As for Charlotte, if they did the whole rat gorging at the fair(musical no. included) then I'll go see it.

  • Dec. 18, 2006, 12:55 a.m. CST

    Henson Workshop + Animal Farm

    by playahatersball

    was done about five years ago for TNT- can't remeber how good it was- the 70's toon was pretty good, as i recall

  • Dec. 18, 2006, 10:41 a.m. CST

    Bumpeses!!!

    by rxse7en

    Bumpeses!!!

  • Dec. 18, 2006, 12:26 p.m. CST

    Henson+Happy Tree Friends=multiple orgasm

    by S-Mart shopper

    Oh yeah baby, you know it's true!