White's Country Critters, Still Humble

And “Charlotte’s Web” is a sneakily sophisticated fable. White certainly appreciated the joys of life on the farm (while evading some of its bloodier aspects), but the book is really about the benevolent, even miraculous power of celebrity. It is, most simply, the story of a spider, Charlotte A. Cavitica, who saves the life of a pig named Wilbur by making him famous. She is a gifted writer whose chosen genre is what we might now call the pull quote — her oeuvre consists of the words “terrific,” “radiant,” “some pig” and, in a stroke of public relations genius, “humble,” all emblazoned in webbing for the world to see. Charlotte is a self-effacing manufacturer of celebrity. An eight-legged flack. It’s not often that someone comes along who is a true friend and a good publicist. —White’s Country Critters, Still Humble (New York Times)

That’s a bit of a cynical take on the story, but it was interesting review nonetheless.

I just got back from a matinée showing of this film. It held the attention of my four-year-old, and there was enough action to delight my eight-year-old. I confess that I missed the lilting song about the cycle of life that Debbie Reynolds sang in the animated version (this one isn’t a musical), but Julia Roberts did an excellent job with Charlotte’s voice. The computer animation of the webs blowing in the wind was fantastic, but I thought some of the camera work (zooming into dew drops and the like) distracted from the beauty.

This movie paid a bit more attention to the concept of words and writing than the animated version did, but I think I still prefer the animated version to this one. (The book, of course, is best.)