E.B. White's beloved kids' book returns to the big screen in live-action form, with Dakota Fanning as a young girl who doesn't want her pet pig, Wilbur, to become pork. As you may recall, Charlotte the spider (voiced by Julia Roberts) spins some adjectives (like "radiant") into her web that explain why Wilbur should live.
Big question: Can voice work by Steve Buscemi, John Cleese, Oprah Winfrey, Reba McEntire, Robert Redford and more bring this farm to life?
Catch it: These are all great choices for voice talent, particularly Buscemi as Templeton the rat and Cleese as Samuel the sheep. Tricky visuals like animals fainting or a tour through Templeton's lair are similarly splendid.
Skip it: If you love bacon. It's never appetizing to remember that your favorite food was once "some pig."
Bottom line: Except for Charlotte, everyone in the film is pretty much a bystander, so this version of "Charlotte's Web" actually teaches little about friendship or teamwork. But there are pleasures to be had from a family film that doesn't scamper from one action sequence to the next--and even crams a pig into a desk during class.
Bonus: Thomas Haden Church and Andre "3000" Benjamin make a hilarious pair as the voices behind two hungry crows. With reports of tension between Outkast members Andre "Big Boi" Patton and Benjamin, maybe Church should try his hand at rapping!
Matt Pais is the metromix movies producer.
Directed by Gary Winick; screenplay by Susannah Grant and Karey Kirkpatrick, based on E.B. White's novel; cinematography by Seamus McGarvey; edited by Susan Littenberg and Sabrina Plisco; production design by Stuart Wurtzel; music by Danny Elfman; produced by Jordan Kerner. A Paramount Pictures release. Running time: 1:53. MPAA rating: G.
Fern -- Dakota Fanning
Charlotte -- Julia Roberts (voice)
Wilbur -- Dominic Scott Kay (voice)
Templeton -- Steve Buscemi (voice)
Gussy -- Oprah Winfrey (voice)
Samuel -- John Cleese (voice)
Mr. Arable -- Kevin Anderson
Mrs. Arable -- Essie DavisCopyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times