Starring: Dakota Fanning, Julia Roberts, Steve Buscemi
Director: Gary Winick
Running Time: 97 mins
Charlotte’s Web is an American film about a young pig named Wilbur living in a barn who fears that he will never get to see Christmas, however he meets a kind spider named Charlotte who promises to save him from this happening.
Sometimes, it’s nice to watch an easy-going and kind-hearted film, which is what this is. It’s also a fun watch for young kids, whilst it also features some fantastic CGI that really helps to make it a more believable premise than any other animal film, like Babe for example, could have done in the past. Unfortunately, it really suffers from an extremely plain story that has neither any emotional intrigue nor laugh-out-loud comedy, making it a really dull film to watch.
On the plus side, however, the film does keep a light-hearted atmosphere that will surely bring smiles to young kids’ faces. It’s a wonderful farmyard adventure for kids who are still around storybook age, and seeing as that is the target audience of this film, that can be regarded as a success.
Also, the visual effects used for the animals are pretty fantastic. As I said, films like Babe or Stuart Little were earlier ventures into the realm of live-action crossed with animals (with moving mouths), but they never managed to capture a realistic feel to any of their main animal characters as a result of technological restrictions. However, Charlotte’s Web succeeds brilliantly in this, and generally has a very convincing use of CGI to create some of the animals, particularly the spider, which deserves a lot of praise too.
However, what’s really missing from this film is a strong core. Even if it’s not an emotionally intriguing one, it would be good if the story had some degree of conflict or genuine peril, rather than being such an insanely positive story that anyone over the age of 6 would just think was silly.
We know that there can be films, largely designed for kids, that can touch both children and adults and pull at their heartstrings, films like The Lion King, Finding Nemo, whilst still retaining a largely upbeat atmosphere, so it’s disappointing to see a story that just has nothing in terms of emotion or character intrigue. Yes, young kids won’t care about it at all, but it is such a glaring issue that it does really impact on your ability to care about what’s actually happening on screen, turning this into an extremely bland and not particularly engaging watch.
Finally, the performances from an A-list cast aren’t that great. Although Dakota Fanning, in a very young role, is lovely enough, she’s not outstanding, but it’s the voice performances by the likes of Julia Roberts, Steve Buscemi, John Cleese and even Oprah Winfrey that prove disappointing, because they really sound like they’ve just been phoned in, which really isn’t great.
Overall, I’ll give Charlotte’s Web a 5.9, because despite the fact that it works for its appropriate age group, and has some good special effects, it’s a kids’ film that’s just extremely dull to watch for anyone over the age of 6.