Image copyright © by Marcus Trahan

Charlotte’s Web

(USA, Germany, Australia, 2006)

I think I ought to start off here with phobias. There are a lot of people who simply could not watch this film. Most of the farm animals are real, with only their mouths altered to look like they are speaking. But Templeton the rat and Charlotte herself are animated and very real. My mother could not possibly endure the rat. She can’t stand to look at rats, mice, gerbils, hamsters … anything small with a twitchy nose. My sister can’t even look at a spider of any kind. This would send her fleeing from the theater.

Myself, I’m not very phobic. I used to have some pet rats. I only have two phobias that I am aware of. I am mildly arachnophobic. I don’t mind small spiders. I don’t like the kind of fat-bellied spider like Charlotte, but I can deal with them. As for tarantulas, I don’t even want to be in the same time zone with a loose one. But I can observe them in terrariums without a qualm. I won’t tell you what my other phobia is. Too personal.

I never read the book. I might enjoy it, though I’m not really big on talking farm animals. The story is about Wilbur, a “spring piglet,” and the little girl, played by Dakota Fanning, who loves him and wants to save him. (I didn’t know that spring pigs were always destined for the smokehouse.) Charlotte the spider helps, weaving words into her webs that make the farm a local sensation.

That’s all cute. I’m sure kids and many adults would love it. This is total storybookland. Everything about the farm and the town and the barn and the carnival is so clean and tidy it squeaks. There is no weathered wood, no overgrown fields, no cowshit underfoot. Everything was painted just yesterday. Okay, why not. It’s a fable. But not really my cup of Aspartame.

My feelings about pigs are simple: pork, bacon, chops, baby back ribs. Yum! The pig is the farm animal that has no use except to eat. Hens and geese lay eggs, cows and goats give milk, horses pull the plow. And you can eat every part of a pig except the squeal.

The voice cast is all-star: Steve Buscemi as the rat, John Cleese, Oprah Winfrey, Kathy Bates, Reba McEntire, Robert Redford (!!), Sam Shepard. The only sour note was Julia Roberts, totally wrong as the voice of Charlotte. She just isn’t a voice talent, in my opinion.