Thursday, February 08, 2007

CHARLOTTE'S WEB tells some home truths

CHARLOTTE'S WEB is a perfectly passable children's film based on the famous book by E.B.White. It stars Dakota Fanning as a little girl who rescues the runty pig from her father's axe. The little pig, named Wilbur, then moves into her uncle's stable and befriends an articulate spider called Charlotte. Charlotte sets about writing words in her web describing the pig as special, so as to persuade the humans of a miracle and save Wilbur from a pre-Christmas trip to the smokehouse.

The movie is filmed in live action, with a host of ridiculously famous actors lending their voices to the various animals - Julia Roberts, Oprah Winfrey, Steve Buscemi, Robert Redford, John Cleese, to name but a few. The voice-overs are well-done and the whole movie has a suitably fairy-tale feel, as evidenced by the fact that the orchestral score is by Tim Burton-favourite, Danny Elfman. However, apart from Julia Roberts who voices Charlotte and Dominic Scott Kay who voices Wilbur, the actors all have thankless tasks - doing their best with limited screen-time. This is particularly a problem for Fanning who finds herself upstaged by an alarmingly cute talking pig.

The movie has its fare share of cloyingly saccharine moments. But let's be clear. CHARLOTTE'S WEB is a movie about how all life ends in death and how some animals are higher than others on the food chain. The tone is set early on, when the little girl saves the piglet from her father's axe and the editor cuts to some sizzling bacon frying in a pan. So parents with little kids should be warned that the movie contains some heavy material - indeed teaching little kids some reality is exactly the point of the film. Still, you need'nt fear that this is a liberal, vegetarian rant. Both the novel and film are remarkably conservative. The message is not that bacon comes from cute pigs so don't eat it, but that this is how life is, so deal with it.

CHARLOTTE'S WEB is already on release in Australia, the US, the Netherlands, Greece, Singapore, Japan, Denmark, Mexico, Venezuala, Germany, Brazil, Poland, Kuwait, Argentina, Estonia, Iceland, Norway, Armenia, the Philippines, Switzerland, Belgiu, France, Sweden and the UK. It opens in Hungary, Finland and Hong Kong next week. It pens in Italy and Latvia in March and in Turkey and Spain in April.

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