Twitter Plot Summary: Wilbur the pig befriends Charlotte, a spider in his barn. To save him from becoming bacon, she writes words in her web.
Director: Gary Winick
Key Cast: Dakota Fanning, Julia Roberts, Steve Buscemi, John Cleese, Robert Redford, Oprah Winfrey, Cedric The Entertainer, Cathy Bates, Thomas Haden Church, Andre Benjamin, Dominic Scott Kay, Sam Shepard, Abraham Benrubi, Kevin Anderson, Essie Davis, Beau Bridges, Siobhan Fallon, Nate Mooney.
Five Point Summary:
1. Talking animals and a pig… Babe 3 avec un spider?
2. Steve Buscemi as a rat. Entirely appropriate.
3. Those crows are really funny.
4. A wordy spider is an entertaining spider.
5. Man, that’s a sad ending. Kind of.
Any family film where the animals talk is guaranteed to be a winner, more so these days when they’re enhanced by CGI. In fact make that “good” CGI. Effects have come along quite a way since Babe, and whilst the CGI Wilbur is rather obviously generated in a computer the fact he is, on occasion, a computer generated creation is not as jarring and/or irritating as you might expect.
The Babe parallels are apparent. There’s a talking pig, for starters. Then there’s the Australian filming locations which creates a similar look to that earlier film. Then there’s the market fair at the end, although this time it’s not about being a sheep-herding pig but all about Charlotte’s web and her miraculous ability to write words on it. If Babe: Pig In the City hadn’t been quite so dark then this could have easily been the third in the series. Yes, with added spider.
Wilbur is your typical pig, albeit the runt of the litter. He’s saved from the chop (haha, chop!) by Fern, who’s just some girl who lives on a farm and, in her yellow raincoat, looks like an extra from The Village who got lost on her way to the set and ended up on a farm with anthropomorphic farmyard animals. Desperate to see the end of the season without becoming bacon, sausage, pork loin or, Grud forbid, black pudding, Wilbur befriends Charlotte, a spider in the barn, who decides to help Wilbur by weaving words into her web so he will be seen as special and subsequently deserving of more life. Let’s face it, all they have to do is let him grow for a couple of years and slaughter him then – more meat and all that. Sorry, that was a bit dark… Moving on!
Dakota Fanning is one of those child actors that don’t annoy, providing a solid performance despite her young age. Well, if we ignore her performance in War of the Worlds, that was definitely irritating. Apart from her, the human characters have little to do, which is appropriate given that the story is all about Wilbur and Charlotte. At best the humans get to gasp and gather round like proverbial sheep and coo over the apparently exciting fact that a spider has written some words in her web.
Funny moments are provided throughout – the crows are dumbfounded by the guy in the field (a scarecrow) who they describe as a freak of nature for his amazing endurance (if they only knew), and Ike The Horse (Robert Redford) is terribly afraid of spiders and faints when Charlotte reveals she drinks the blood of the flies she catches. Then there’s Templeton the rat, voiced by Steve Buscemi. Forget Wilbur and Charlotte (voiced by Dominic Scott Kay and Juliar Roberts), Buscemi as Templeton was the star for me. Templeton is the loveable antihero, self-obsessed yet will help Charlotte and Wilbur… for a price. You couldn’t call him nuanced in any sense, but he is at the very least entertaining. In any case there are sufficient elements to the film to allow enjoyment from both kids and parents.
There’s one lesson that comes out of Charlotte’s Web, and it’s that death is part of the natural order of things. That’s potentially a bit dark for a kids film, but the tone is balanced perfectly and nowhere near the depths of darkness that Babe: Pig In The City decided to tread. It ends hopefully, bracing us for the inevitableness of death yet embracing the joys of life and all that is special about it. Or maybe I’m just reading too much into a film predominantly about a spider helping a pig avoid being eaten.
Favourite scene: Templeton goes off to find some words for Charlotte and has to deal with the bickering crows.
Quote: “Templeton, haven’t you ever heard that good things come to those who wait?”
“No. Good things come to those who find it and shove it in their mouth!”
Silly Moment: The crows covered in pink paint and debating whether or not that’s a good thing.