Spider Writer: Charlotte’s Web
Charlotte’s Web, the beloved 1952 novel by E. B. White about friendship and salvation has been turned into a movie full of humor and wonder. Director Gary Winick and screenwriters Susannah Grant and Karey Kirkpatrick have respected their source and captured its essence.
This new screen version (there was a 1973 traditional animated version) uses realistic computer animation to render two characters, the rat and the spider, which blends flawlessly with the people and the animals.
Another plus for this version is the superb cast of voices including Julia Roberts (Charlotte); Steve Buscemi (Templeton, The Rat); John Cleese (a sarcastic sheep); Oprah Winfrey (a gossipy goose) and 10-year-old Dominic Scott Kay in the key role of Wilbur, the wide-eyed pig.
Dakota Fanning, is terrific as spunky Fern, who prevents her father (Kevin Anderson) from eliminating the runt of the litter, with his axe. When the little pig she’s named “Wilbur” becomes too big for the house, she finds an adoptive home for him at the Zuckerman farm. Here the naive newcomer learns from the other animals that a spring pig usually doesn’t live to see the winter snows. (They grace holiday tables.)
Looking for nothing less than a miracle, he finds an ally in Charlotte, the barn’s spider and social misfit. Articulate and artistic she spins messages describing him as “some pig,” “terrific” “and radiant” and makes him famous, Fans flock to save him.
Shot in Australia, the film magically distills America of the 1950’s with clapboard barns, vintage cars and appliances and fashions.
Like White’s book, the movie follows the forces of nature observing the seasons passing seasons. Dealing with the cycle of life, death and birth, the film comes to a tremendously moving conclusion.
To tie this film to proactive activities for today’s youngsters, “ Finding Inspiration In Literature & Movies” (F.I..L.M.) has developed a program related to it. Check out www.youthFILMproject.org, for complete info and free activity guides.
For college age and older audiences, Pan’s Labyrinth by gifted Mexican director Guillermo Del Toro is well worth seeking out. It’s a riveting coming of age story about 12-year old girl who ventures into a labyrinth where, within its walls, she meets a faun who tells her she is a princess of a long forgotten kingdom. For the details, see this compelling dark fairy story for sophisticated film goers.#