Charlotte's Web

Charlotte's Web (2006)
Paramount Home Video
Cast: Julia Roberts, John Cleese, Dakota Fanning, Steve Buscemi
Extras: Deleted Scenes, Bloopers, Music Video, Featurettes, Storybook Creator

Based on E.B. White's children's book, "Charlotte's Web" has recently been remade using contemporary techniques – read, computer animation – to bring to life Zuckerman's Farm and all of its inhabitants. The film is now making its DVD debut from Paramount Home Entertainment to entertain the whole family.

Wilbur (Dominic Scott Kay) is a young pig living on the farm of the Zuckerman's and he is afraid that he may end up as roast pork for Christmas dinner. Not too far fetched a thought, of course, as this is an annual ritual. But Wilbur and all the other farm animals are determined to put an end to this horrific custom. They pull together to show the world that Wilbur is a truly exceptional pig so that no one would ever even consider killing him for food. With the help of the spider Charlotte (Julia Roberts) Wilbur quickly becomes the attraction of not only the farm, but the whole countryside. Why? Because Charlotte writes words in her web to describe Wilbur's uniqueness, much to the amazement of the human folks. It is not easy for these animals to find the right words and to make a lasting impression, of course, and yet, they refuse to give up as the dreaded winter months draw nearer.

"Charlotte's Web" is a charming tale that teaches children respect for any form of life. Whether it is human life, the life of a farm animal or something as seemingly insignificant as a spider, every life on Earth serves a purpose and deserves to be treated respectfully. It does so in the form of a wonderful tale that is full of wonders and love, and in this live-action film version the filmmakers have made us of the latest technology to teach the animals to talk. Much like "Babe" did years ago, here we have a whole stable of farm animals that have been computer enhanced to allow for facial expressions and other behavior that makes them more personable. The result works very well, also as a result of some of the great voice talent involved to bring these animal characters to full bloom. Julia Roberts, John Cleese, Steve Buscemi, Robert Redford and others do a great job to put their talents to good use and the characters are perfectly cast. The film is very good humored capturing much of White's original book. As such the story works like a charm, making "Charlotte's Web" a truly entertaining, touching and educational movie experience for children and adults alike.

Paramount Home Entertainment is presenting the film in a widescreen presentation on this DVD in its original 1.85:1 aspect ratio. The transfer is absolutely clean and without any hint of noise, grain or blemishes. Colors are strong and vibrant, making the best of the material. Whether it's the lush greens of the farm, the interior of the barn or the bright outdoor scenes at the fair, this DVD always looks vibrant and rich. Black levels are solid and deep, giving the image very good visual depth without losing detail. This is particularly evident in the dim barn scenes where you can easily make out details in the shadows despite their darkness. No edge-enhancement was evident and the compression is without flaws.

The audio on the release comes as a 5.1 channel Dolby Digital track that is also without flaws. Making good and active use of the surround channels, the track is not overly aggressive but creates a bustling sound field when necessary, or engulfs the viewer with ambient sounds. The dynamic range is wide, like you would expect from a modern movie, and offers up a deep bass extension that is never exaggerated. Dialogues are well integrated and always understandable.

Paramount has also added a number of bonus materials to the disc, creating an exciting mix for children and adults alike. First there is a selection of deleted scenes that adds a bit of additional depth to the characters but didn't help much in advancing the film's story as such. A number of bloopers are also included, making for some great laughs that especially the children will enjoy.

You will also find Sarah McLachlan's music video "Ordinary Miracle" on the disc as well as a Storyboard Creator bonus feature that will keep the children entertained.

For the grown-ups there are seven featurettes covering many aspects of the film itself. They include a look at the special effects as well as a more general behind-the-scenes look at the production.

Overall "Charlotte's Web" is a great family release that works perfectly for all ages. With a top notch feature presentation and great bonus features you simply can't go wrong picking this disc up. And after all, I feel, many adults could also use a refresher in "Charlotte's Web" to be reminded of its moral values. So, grab this disc and enjoy!