Making the Grades
A perfectly ordinary farming community suddenly becomes perfectly extraordinary, thanks to the arrival of a not quite ordinary pig. Yet on the wet and stormy night the little runt enters the world, only young Fern (Dakota Fanning) recognizes his potential.
Born the smallest of a large litter, practically-minded Mr. Arable (Kevin Anderson) prepares to mercifully end the doomed creature's life until his twelve-year-old daughter intervenes by promising to care for the squealing bundle herself. But as Fern bottle-feeds and names the baby Wilbur, her maternal affection becomes a new problem. Knowing the pink porker will grow only to be slaughtered at a later time, Fern's worried mother (Essie Davis) tries to prepare her child for the inevitable. The first step in this process is to distance the pair by moving the pet pig to the Zuckerman's barn across the road.
Fern adjusts to the new arrangement by trying to visit as often as possible, while wee Wilbur (voiced by Dominic Scott Kay) soothes the sting of the separation by focusing on the excitement of having a barnyard full of new animals to associate with. Unfortunately, Samuel the sheep (voice of John Cleese), Gussy and Golly Geese (Oprah Winfrey and Cedric the Entertainer) cows Bitsy and Betsy (Kathy Bates and Reba McEntire) and the old workhorse Ike (Robert Redford), know there is just one reason farmers keep pigs, so none of them are very eager to invest in a short-term relationship. Only Charlotte (Julia Roberts), a spider whose society is also shunned due to her much-maligned species, is willing to befriend the lonely and hopelessly optimistic piglet.
As acceptance and appreciation develop between the two misfits, their sense of affection eventually spread to all of their fellow farm family, including a usually self-centered rat named Templeton (Steve Buscemi). Together they determine to keep Wilbur from the fate of the smokehouse --although it is Charlotte's clever web work that holds out the best prospects for his future longevity. Soon the news of Charlotte's amazing spiderly talents, which transform Wilbur into "some pig," begins to change the mundane perspective of the humans in the surrounding world too.
Staying true to the heart of its inspirational novel (penned by E.B. White), this Charlotte's Web spins a tale of love and sacrifice sure to tickle viewers. Although the plot revolves around Wilbur's life hanging by a thread, his perilous situation never threatens the warmth of the story. Besides these verbal euphemisms, the other few concerns consist of some name-calling, flatulence jokes, slapstick violence (involving the rat and a couple of hungry crows), a mild expletive and two young characters that hold hands.
Generations of fans, who have previously relied on their imagination to bring this radiant book to life, should be pleasantly impressed by the efforts of the filmmakers. Their creativity --with the help of a good portion of CGI effects -- has transformed this extraordinary story into an equally extraordinary live-action feature, making this beloved children's classic into "some movie."
Discussion Ideas After The Movie
Teaching ideas and topics to discuss about Charlotte’s Web.
What does the doctor say to Mrs. Arable’s concerns over her daughter’s preoccupation with Wilbur and the other farm animals? Do you agree with his diagnosis? Are you saddened by his prognosis? How does his council help the worried mother see the miraculous in life’s simple things?
Why didn’t the other barn residents like Charlotte? Why didn’t Wilbur feel the same way? How can appearances and preconceived notions affect one’s perspective? What helped the farm animals change their point of view?
How do Charlotte and Fern feel about keeping promises? Why does the spider say it was her “great pleasure” to help Wilbur? What did the pig give to Charlotte that she so highly valued? Although Charlotte uses the word “humble” to describe Wilbur, whom else does it describe?