Editors' pick

Charlotte's Web

Charlotte's Web movie poster
MPAA rating: G
Genre: Family
E.B. White's beloved children's tale comes to the big screen with Dakota Fanning as Fern and an all-star cast -- Julia Roberts, Oprah Winfrey, John Cleese -- providing the voices of the animals.
Starring: Julia Roberts, Dakota Fanning, Steve Buscemi, John Cleese, Oprah Winfrey, Cedric the Entertainer, Kathy Bates, Reba McEntire, Robert Redford, Thomas Haden Church, Andre Benjamin
Director: Gary Winick
Running time: 1:53
Release: Opened Dec 15, 2006
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Editorial Review

E.B. White's children's book "Charlotte's Web"-- starring Wilbur the curly-tailed runt, his human friend, Fern, and that spinner of silky acclamations, Charlotte -- has been charming kids into bed since Dwight Eisenhower was president. Those kids, who passed it along to their children, can rest assured that the movie, featuring Dakota Fanning and an off-screen cast that includes Julia Roberts, Oprah Winfrey and Robert Redford, shares their reverence. The performers, at times, sound as if they're doing a casual read-through before the actual show -- but their relaxed spirit is subtly satisfying. The film also bypasses all that riffing and referencing that has become the pop-culture-uber-alles mantra of so many films from Pixar and its various imitators.

As Fern, Fanning is just right: a sweet-natured, bighearted kid whose only motivation is the well-being of her adopted pet. We delight in her disarmingly funny moments -- literally trying to keep the lid on her rambunctious piglet in class or wheeling him around town in a pram. She's a girl again.

Wilbur and his barnyard friends move with snappy fluidity. We enjoy snouts, maws and jaws moving in perfect sync with human words -- it's as though we're watching live-action cartoons. And it's fun to watch Wilbur splashing in mud puddles or trying repeatedly to ram a wooden fence with the slapstick resilience of a Keystone Kop. The movie feels almost quaint, practically hands-on, in light of the computer-generated thrill rides that dominate most animation films.

Remember the peaceful atmosphere of bedtime storytelling? The kind that allows parent and child to take satisfaction in the story, not the teller? That's how "Charlotte" draws you into its web.

-- Desson Thomson

Contains nothing objectionable.