Friday, December 15, 2006

Web of Whys

Okay, end of the week, nine more shopping days and all that good stuff. So, what have we got .... A movie review of course. Naturally, it's a movie I haven't even seen.

Six months ago I watched a trailer for the new version of Charlotte's Web, which opens in theaters today. The preview featured an acrobatic, animatronic Wilbur, flatulent cows, Dakota Fanning as Fern and Julia Roberts as the voice of Charlotte. When the trailer voiceover guy introduced it as "the most beloved children's book of all time," I cringed, and my fears were confirmed as it played across the screen. I hated it.

Why does the pig have to do backflips? Isn't the whole theme of the movie that he is not spectacular but still worth saving? Why do the cows have to fart? There's plenty of humor in EB White's book, I think there's even a pretty terrific belch if I remember correctly, but I don't remember farting. Can Fern really be played by a blonde? Dakota Fanning is a winning actress, but Fern is a farm girl, not some gauzy, beautiful, soft-focus angel. Wait a minute, she saves Wilbur's life, so I guess she is an angel, but Fern has brown hair, she has freckles, she has substance. Haley Joel Osment in drag would have been a better choice ("I see dead piglets").

And Julia Roberts gets her own paragraph. I know, I know, she won an Academy Award. And I liked Erin Brockovich, but I never got the whole Pretty Woman thing. Great song, really dumb movie. I can tolerate Richard Gere swooping the incredibly annoying Debra Winger off her feet in An Officer and a Gentleman, but once was enough, really, and at least Lou Gossett, Jr. got to beat the crap out of him in that movie. Now, Roberts married Lyle Lovett, so I respect that. Yes, she dumped him, but still, Charlotte is a role for Meryl Streep or Lily Tomlin. I guess it could have been worse. They could have made her British.

Maybe some other people felt the same way because when I saw another version of the trailer at the end of the summer, the cows had cleaned up their acts, and the pig was no longer a member of Porque du Soleil. And in today's Baltimore Sun, movie reviewer Michael Sragow has high praise for the final product. Sragow also makes an ineffectively broad argument that men enjoy "chick flicks" more than women, using two female directors as examples. I see what he is getting at, but I would argue that those two are the exception, not the rule.

Anway, will I see Charlotte's Web? Tough call. I don't think the boys will be clamoring for this one. John Cleese does one of the voices, which almost cancels out the Roberts factor, but Oprah as one of the cows (insert joke that will enrage women all over the planet here) tips the scales in the other direction (ha!). What I do know is that if we end up seeing the movie, we will all cry when Charlotte dies.

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