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Movie Review: Charlotte's Web

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Author/Source: Eric Ward

Topic: Movie Review

A review of Charlotte's Web including a description of the movie, areas of concern, teachable themes, and discussion questions.

Movie Review: <i>Charlotte's Web</i>

Overview

Charlotte's Web is an OK movie with several teachable moments. As a movie based on a book, it is mostly accurate with only minor differences (e.g. Templeton's nest is not directly under Wilbur's feeding trough). The main themes throughout the movie are kindness, miracles, and friendship which is similar to the book although the movie focuses more on the miracles and less on the friendship than the book does. Overall, it is not a bad adaptation, but it is not quite as good as its popular cartoon predecessor.

Concerns

My biggest concern in this movie stems from the fact that I am somewhat arachnophobic. Charlotte is a little too realistic and ugly without any touch of cuteness. I eventually got used to that but the scene with her babies made me shudder. My wife thought that was a little creepy too, but didn't consider it to be quite as nightmarish as I did. This realness might frighten kids.

A second concern was the portrayal of Fern, the main human character. Specifically in relation to her parents she is portrayed as somewhat belligerent and disobedient. In the face of her disobedience, her parents are portrayed as having a hopeless, "what can we do?" attitude.

At one point, Charlotte explains the process of catching and eating small insects and comments, "... then I say grace 'cause that's always nice'." This was the only reference, other than calling a minister over to see the web, to anything divine and it is a rather flippant attitude about it. Although the movie talks a lot about "miracles," they are never ascribed to any higher power. At one point a psychiatrist talks about how a spider web itself may be considered a miracle, but there is a noticeable lack of divinity behind the miracles.

Teachable Themes & Discussion

There are several teachable moments in this movie. Here are a few that I noticed:

  • Near the beginning of the movie, Wilbur is taken to Uncle Homer's barn where the narrator comments that even though the barn was full of living things, that did not mean it was full of life. Discuss the difference between being alive and being full of life. There are numerous scriptural references to "life" that could be used here.
  • After Charlotte spins the first "Some Pig" web, the minister is called and advises that no one be told about this right away. The scene immediately following shows everyone in town being told, ending with a crowd around the web. Show this clip and discuss how rumors can spread. One might also use Proverbs 11:13, "A gossip betrays a confidence, but a trustworthy person keeps a secret."
  • Shortly after the above scene, the onlookers leave and Uncle Homer comments upon it. Discuss how quickly people are able to forget about God's miracles. The Exodus might be a good scriptural example to use.
  • As the animals are looking for another word for Charlotte to spell, someone suggests "Terrific", at which point Templeton objects that Wilbur is only average. How highly should we value others? How do our comments about other people make them feel? Was Templeton wrong?
  • Fern's mother suspects that Fern is really the one spelling words in the web and that nothing miraculous is really happening. The psychiatrist tells her that the fact that there is a web in the first place is a miracle. What defines a "miracle" anyway? Do we ever witness God's miracles without even thinking to thank him?
  • Fern's parents are concerned because Fern is talking to the animals. They do not believe that she can understand them. How do you think that made Fern feel? Do you think it is difficult to believe in something even when no one else does? How can we help people to believe in Christ who think that believing in him is as foolish as Fern's parents thought speaking to animals was?
  • There are several moments throughout the film when characters defend their actions because they promised to do something. How important is it to keep a promise? Consider Psalm 15, especially verse 4. Did Charlotte promise more than she could give? What if Uncle Homer had decided to kill Wilbur anyway? What happens when we make promises that we are not able to keep?
  • Near the end of the movie, Charlotte (remember, especially creepy, ugly, far-too-realistic Charlotte) tells Wilbur, "You made a spider beautiful." How can we make others beautiful? Where does true beauty come from? See 1 Peter 3:3-4

Additional Thoughts

There is a lot that can be said about this movie in terms of friendship, sacrifice, and many other values. I am always a bigger fan of books than of movies but, in any case, the fact that this movie is being released right now provides a great opportunity to use it to turn children toward Christ.


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