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Laramie Movie Scope:
Charlotte's Web

One of the year's best family films

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by Robert Roten, Film Critic
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December 22, 2006 -- This is the second screen adaptation of the beloved children's book by E.B. White, and the best. It is a great story about the power of words, friendship, sacrifice and humility. The heroes of this story are an extremely unlikely trio, a spider, a pig and a rat. This is a very gentle story in which love, intelligence, courage, self-sacrifice and humility win out over prejudice. If only this were so more often. The first version of this film was animated, this one is live-action, assisted by non-intrusive digital animation.

Dakota Fanning stars as Fern, a young girl who insists that Wilbur the pig not be executed for being the runt of the litter. Instead, she takes care of the pig, even taking it to school in a funny scene. She spends so much time taking care of the pig that her parents begin to worry about her. Not to worry, says the kindly, wise local doctor (played by Beau Bridges). She's just a child who hasn't yet lost her humanity. Wilbur is shipped off next door to another farm where he will stay until it is time to cook the thanksgiving ham. Wilbur and Fern are unaware of Wilbur's impending doom at first. The other animals in the barn don't like Wilbur at first, despite his cheerful attitude and kindly nature.

Wilbur does make one friend, however, a spider named Charlotte. One day, Wilbur saves Charlotte's life when a child tries to capture her. Charlotte, impressed by Wilbur's courage and loyalty, makes an extraordinary promise. She will stop Wilbur from being slaughtered this year. Though she is tiny compared to humans, Charlotte keeps trying to think of a plan to help Wilbur. She finally hits on the idea of spinning words into her web which praise Wilbur. The words cause a sensation. People come to the barn from miles around to see Charlotte's miraculous web. Suddenly Wilbur is seen as an asset to the farm. He brings in tourists, who bring in money. Still, as the novelty fades, and people forget, Charlotte needs more words to save Wilbur. That's where the rat, Templeton, comes in. He brings in scraps of paper which serve as Charlotte's inspiration for her next web word.

Wilbur's courage and friendship, and his ability to see the beauty that is in Charlotte, inspires her to great deeds on behalf of Wilbur. These deeds earn both Wilbur and Charlotte the admiration of the other animals in the barn. They see that something amazing is happening. This also spreads through the whole countryside. All people in the area sense that they are in the presence of something extraordinary. Before, they lived ordinary lives. Now they are part of something amazing. The story puts the lie to the idea that individuals don't matter. It shows that one person, or pig, or spider, or rat, can make a difference. The first step is to recognize that which is beautiful in others. That first step was taken by Fern, who saw the value in Wilbur, which no one else saw. In the end, everyone came to see Wilbur's value as one very humble, but amazing pig.

This is only the second time in my life I cried over a spider. The first time was when I was a child and I accidentally stepped on a pet spider I had captured. This is an exceptional family movie. It rates a B+.

Click here for links to places to buy or rent this movie in video and/or DVD format, or to buy the soundtrack, posters, books, even used videos, games, electronics, theater tickets and lots of other stuff. I suggest you shop at least two of these places before buying anything. Prices seem to vary continuously. For more information on this film, click on this link to The Internet Movie Database. Type in the name of the movie in the search box and press enter. You will be able to find background information on the film, the actors, and links to much more information.

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Copyright © 2006 Robert Roten. All rights reserved.
Reproduced with the permission of the copyright holder.
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Robert Roten can be reached via e-mail at my last name at lariat dot org. [Mailer button: image of letter and envelope]

(If you e-mail me with a question about this or any other movie or review, please mention the name of the movie you are asking the question about, otherwise I may have no way of knowing which film you are referring to)