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The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know Charlotte's Web is unusually respectful of its much-loved source (E.B. White's classic novel) and its young audience. While the movie does refer to the farmer's plan to kill Wilbur for Christmas dinner, the pivotal (and most potentially upsetting) moment is the death of a central character, which is followed by appropriate mourning and recovery by her barnyard friends. Some of the animal characters are initially unfriendly to a new arrival, and Templeton the rat scavenges objects and talks about being selfish and sneaky. Crows attack him, with their point-of-view shots suggesting the danger he's in. There's also some name-calling. Loyalty, acceptance, and faith in your friends are important themes of this emotionally powerful movie.
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What's the story?
In this adaptation of E.B. White's 1952 Newbery Award-winning book, CHARLOTTE'S WEB, barnyard animals are reluctant to befriend Wilbur, who's fated to be served up as the humans' Christmas dinner. But Wilbur (voiced by 10-year-old Dominic Scott Kay) is so sweet, curious, and affable that they're soon won over. And Charlotte A. Cavatica (Julia Roberts), the spider who spins her webs in the barn doorway, decides to find a way to save Wilbur's life.
Is it any good?
Here's a welcome surprise: A children's movie that's thoughtful, entertaining, and enchanting. This newest big-screen version of Charlotte's Web, based on E.B. White's 1952 Newbery Award-winning book mixes performances by real-life actors and animals with animated mouths, slipping gracefully into the world of the barnyard without ever doubting its magic. Whether you're new to the story or already adore the book, Gary Winick's movie is a special treat.
The one questionable lesson offered by Charlotte's Web is that embodied by Fern. A tomboy through and through, she worries her mother (to the point that she visits a doctor, trying to understand why her daughter spends so much time with the farm animals). When Fern at last abandons her overalls for a pretty yellow dress, Mom (Essie Davis) feels reassured. But the film needn't offer this transformation as a sign of Fern's "proper" socialization. Really, tomboys can be mature too.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can discuss the importance of words and their role in Charlotte's Web. How are words important for communicating, even between species? How do they help shape our impressions of others?
How do the animals come to see one another as friends, even though at first they're put off by their differences?
If you've read the book, how does the movie compare to what you imagined in your head?
- In theaters: December 14, 2006
- On DVD or streaming: April 3, 2007
- Cast: Dakota Fanning, Dominic Scott Kay, Julia Roberts
- Director: Gary Winick
- Studio: Paramount Pictures
- Genre: Family and Kids
- Topics: Book Characters, Horses and Farm Animals
- Character strengths: Communication, Compassion, Integrity
- Run time: 97 minutes
- MPAA rating: G
- MPAA explanation: general audiences
- Last updated: September 10, 2020
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