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Charlotte's Web


Stars: Dakota Fanning, Kevin Anderson, Essie Davis, Beau Bridges. Voice stars: Julia Roberts, Dominic Scott Kay, Robert Redford, Steve Buscemi, John Cleese, Oprah Winfrey, Kathy Bates, Reba McEntire, Cedric the Entertainer, Andre Benjamin, Thomas Haden Church, Sam Shepard

Director: Gary Winick

Some pig! For the first time since the 1973 cartoon version of E B White's children's classic, Wilbur, the runt of the litter at Arable Farm, is back, in an endearing, computer-boosted live-action version of the tale, in which animals talk and interact (through an excellent voice cast), much as they did in Babe.

Saved from the axe by the farmer's young daughter (Fanning), Wilbur (Scott Kay) is soon friends with all the creatures in the barn, but above all with Charlotte A Cavatica (Roberts), the spider in the corner over the door. She becomes determined to save Wilbur from the 'smokehouse', and make him the first spring pig to see the snows of winter.

This is a world of innocence long gone, but present-day children will still shed a tear, as Charlotte spins SOME PIG, TERRIFIC and other words in her web to attract visitors and save her friend's bacon.

She's hindered and helped by Templeton, the barn's snarling, streetwise rat (it has to be Buscemi and it is), who brings a welcome whiff of reality to the rose-coloured proceedings. Good things come to those who wait,' chides Charlotte gently. 'Nah' whines Templeton, 'good things come to those that find them and shove them in their mouth.'

Despite the rat, though, it all gets a bit too sloppy at the end, and the animals are more fun passing out than passing wind. Best of the bunch are two scaredy crows (Church, Benjamin) and Cleese as Basil - sorry, Samuel - a sardonic sheep. It's mostly fine family fare.

David Quinlan

USA 2006. UK Distributor: Paramount. Colour by De Luxe.
97 minutes. Not widescreen. UK certificate: U.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 0, Violence/Horror 0, Drugs 0, Swearing 0.

Review date: 03 Feb 2007