Charlotte’s Web

January 28, 2012 6 Min Read

Review by: Fusion3600

Plot: What’s it about?

The Arable Farm has just gotten some new residents, as a litter of pigs has just been born. As Mr. Arable (Kevin Anderson) looks over his newest livestock, he notices right off that one piglet is much to small. He decides to kill the pig, since it would never prove to be profitable, but his daughter Fern (Dakota Fanning) intervenes. She asks to take care of the piglet herself, so she names him Wilbur and devotes a lot of time to the piglet. Fern takes care of Wilbur as if he were a human child, adoring the piglet to no end, but when Wilbur begins to grow, her parents step in. She protests giving away her friend and while Wilbur does leave, he only moves to the barn on Fern’s uncle’s farm. Wilbur is alive, but finds himself feeling a bit out of place, as the other animals don’t accept him right off, but he does find a friend. The friend is an unexpected one, a spider named Charlotte (voiced by Julia Roberts) and while a spider is an odd friend, Wilbur is overjoyed to have the company. Charlotte knows that Wilbur likely won’t survive the fall, but can she weave some magic and help him beat the odds one more time?

A movie based on a beloved children’s book will always have both edges of the sword, as fans will usually flock to see it, but at the same time, the shoes are big ones to fill. Charlotte’s Web is as beloved as it gets, so its no surprise to see an A list cast and a polished, well crafted production. The cast is impressive, with the lovable Dakota Fanning in live action world, while such folks as Oprah Winfrey and Julia Roberts lending their voices. The animals are mixture of real and computer animated, but the effects look terrific and for the most part, come off as seamless. Charlotte’s Web has very high production values, so the visuals look slick and the cast is impressive, so in that respect, fans should be pleased. Where the movie doesn’t deliver is the emotion of the book, the film looks great, but lacks the heart that helps drive the story. As expected, some parts of the book were excised and others were altered, but the overall spirit and flow are intact. In the end, perhaps the filmmakers should have focused more on substance instead of style, but I still think this is a solid movie. Not as good as Charlotte’s Web deserves, but then again, perhaps no filmed adaptation could fill those shoes, so this one is still worth a rental.

Video: How does it look?

Charlotte’s Web is presented in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen. As we’ve come to expect from Paramount’s new releases, this is a terrific visual presentation with a pristine source print and flawless compression. This is easily a reference quality transfer, I could find no problems anywhere while I was watching this movie. The colors look vibrant with no bleeding or smearing visible, and flesh tones appear natural and distortion free. The contrast is just as impressive, with complex shadow layering and no detail loss is evident whatsoever.

Audio: How does it sound?

This is a dialogue driven movie, so the included Dolby Digital 5.1 track is no monster, but it does cover all the bases. The surrounds are reserved for some ambient effects and the musical soundtrack, but that works out well, given the nature of the material. The main focus is on the vocals, which come through with flying colors, with accurate volume balance and a crisp overall sound throughout. So no, this won’t be a demo level audio track, but as far as the material goes, it is more than up to snuff. This disc also includes a French language track, as well as subtitles in English and Spanish.

Supplements: What are the extras?

To learn more about the film made, sample the pair of audio commentaries, one a solo track with director Gary Winick and the other with producer Jordan Kerner and visual effects supervisor John Andrew Berton, Jr. Winick provides a more general behind the scenes talk, while as expected, Berton focuses on the film’s special effects. There is some overlap between Winick and Kerner, but both sessions offer a good deal of insight. Making Some Movie is the first of numerous featurettes, but it is the most substantial of the lot, clocking in at just under half an hour. The other handful are more focused, but also brief, with average run times of 5 to 7 minutes, so not a lot can be done in that timeframe. But when you put the big picture together from all the featurettes, you’ll have a good idea of what it took to bring this vision of Charlotte’s Web to the screen. This disc also includes two music videos, from Bob Carlisle and Sarah McLachlan.

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