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Friday, 17 November 2017

Retro Review: Charlotte's Web (2006)

Charlotte's Web
Cast: Julia Roberts, Dakota Fanning, Steve Buscemi, John Cleese, Oprah Winfrey, Cedric The Entertainer, Kathy Bates, Reba McEntire, Robert Redford, Thomas Haden Church
Genre: Fantasy
Worldwide Box Office Gross: over $144 million

Plot: After learning that a young pig's days are numbered, a literate spider weaves an elaborate plan to save her friend from the butcher's block 

'A Web That Needed To Weave More Magic & Charm'

I went into this film with low expectations; I didn't expect much out of it and given as I wasn't familiar with the original story and that I'm not really into farm-based movies, I thought it would be something that wouldn't hold my attention for very long. Charlotte's Web is a famous children's tale, which also spawned a 2D animated version of the film by Hanna-Barbera, with Debbie Reynolds voicing the lead role. 

When a young piglet in Wilbur is saved from being slaughtered & ending up as somebody else's Sunday roast by a young farm girl played by Dakota Fanning, who promises to take care of him, the two form a close-knit bond until he is relocated to another barn. From there onwards, Wilbur forms an unlikely friendship with a spider named Charlotte who changes his life, forever. She also vows to save his life, yet with her health deteriorating and worsening, it's up to Charlotte to teach the young 'un a few lessons about life, as well as death, before she passes on. 

With co-production by Nickelodeon, the 2006 version sees the E.B White tale come to life in CGI form and with a more star-studded cast in the likes of Robert Redford, Oprah Winfrey, Steve Buscemi, John Cleese and Julia Roberts. Julia voices Charlotte who is a spider, who befriends Wilbur. She has a nice soothing and comforting voice and tone that, along with her affectionate quality, suits and accompanies this character really well. Yes, people will digress and say otherwise and label it as nothing more than stunt casting, and that is fine. But for me, her deadpan and pleasant delivery was good to have. Young Dominic Scott Kay was also sweet as lead, Wilbur. 

Despite my unfamiliarity with the story, I would have enjoyed it more, had the film been in 3D or 2D animated form. So going into Charlotte's Web as a neutral & not knowing anything about the book but looking forward to a good movie, it didn't deliver. 

The story was the least of my interests although that aspect didn't wow me, I was more into how the voice casting fared: it was playing the guessing game where I tried to guess who was voicing who and matching the names with the characters. As I was watching Charlotte, all I was doing is picturing Julia Roberts's face & visualising her in that role, focusing on that aspect. Her vocal efforts were consistently on point throughout & thus, she triumphed. She needs to take up a few more voice-over animated character roles, but also characters with far more personality. Steve Buscemi as Templeton the Rat was energetic and boisterous. The rest of the cast did okay to good. 

Charlotte's Web basically, respectfully and competently remains faithful to the plot of the story; unfortunately, one needs to be completely familiar with and have fully enjoyed the original story to have grasped it well enough & the vocal talents of Roberts & Buscemi barely, and just barely made its moments watchable. At over 1 hour and 30 mins, the story meanders on without it ever exploding in certain moments and the film lacks any true witty scenes to give it a boost. The lack of a focus for this movie didn't help matters either. 

The silly flatulence moments were silly and come to the end, it is a movie that the likelihood of me sitting through it again, is practically zero.

It's nice, but still, that just wasn't enough. 



Pros +

- The voice casting

- Julia Roberts as Charlotte brings charm & was very endearing

- Animated fantasy scenes are well done

- Endearing and cute at times

Cons -

- Story lacks wit, charm & is very plain

- Still doesn't come close to Babe

- Wished this voice casting was for Babe than for this film

- I'd have preferred it in 3D animated form, ala Pixar/Dreamworks style 

- The human characters lack character & their parts were incredibly dull

- Unless you are a true fan, this is not a movie that everyone can get into and enjoy

Final Verdict:

Babe with a star-studded cast, although Babe has slightly more charm and I'd wished that film had this casting. Of course, Babe still went on to gross millions more than Charlotte's Web. If the story was much better and had more for me to fully love it, then that would have been great and had I known and read and loved the book, that would have been of great benefit also.

Julia Roberts's inclusion and admirable efforts just about save it from being utterly mediocre & unwatchable. I usually can't stand spiders, but any spider voiced by Julia gets my seal of approval. Plus, my eyes were leaking when she died *sob*. Still, Charlotte's Web is not horrible and it's not too shabby, but it's not great either and, but for the closing moments, the story is not satisfying enough to make me want to fully love it. 

Despite the star-casting, Charlotte's Web is decent at best and passes as pleasant & inoffensive but underwhelms and it's hardly a movie most people would bat an eyelid for, without the well-known names. 

For its intended fans of the book, only. 


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