E. B. White Earl Hamner Jr.
Karey Kirkpatrick, Susannah Grant
Paramount Pictures, Walden Media, Kerner Entertainment Company, Nickelodeon Movies, Sandman Studios
Technicolor Sound Services
Siobhan Fallon Hogan:
Massimo De Ambrosis
Luca Dal Fabbro
There are some films which are wrongly penalized by the distribution companies and forgotten after not even a week in the cinemas, swallowed up by the latest, violent road–movie or by the umpteenth, funny film. This little jewel, Charlotte's Web, from a famous children's book by E. B. White, directed by Gary Winick for Paramount, has experienced this destiny and is absolutely worthy of being rediscovered in TV or on DVD.
The story had already been used before for a cartoon produced by Hanna and Barbera in the 70's using the Sherman brothers' music from Disney memory (the nice Italian version was seen to by Roberto de Leonardis with Marisa Sannia as the voice of Charlotte the spider for the songs). Now Paramount, in the wake of films like Babe, picks up the nice theme and creates a tender, elegiac film, shot entirely in the open air in Australia, using the most refined animation and computerised techniques to give us the illusion that the animals actually do speak. We therefore assist the story of Wilbur the piglet, destined to a sure death because his mother doesn't feed him, who survives thanks to the farmer's daughter, Fern (a superb Dakota Fanning) who decides to bring him up herself. When the piglet becomes too big and bulky he is moved to her Uncle's farm nearby. In the big enclosure Wilbur feels lonely but then something strange happens. Charlotte, a spider who lives in the corner of a barn door notices the piglet's loneliness and offers him her friendship. It's the beginning of a very special relationship between two souls who discover to be similar.
When Wilbur discovers that the following Christmas he's destined to become sausages, Charlotte promises him that she'll save him one way or another. In this way, slowly, Charlotte begins to spin beautiful webs on which she writes complimentary adjectives describing little Wilbur. First called “CHE PORCO” (what a pig) then ATOMICO (atomic), RADIANTE (radiant) and finally, once Wilbur becomes a celebrity, he's enrolled at a local fair competition and to warmly support his candidature refers to him as UMILE (humble), Charlotte manages in her intent. Exhausted through her web-spinning, the spider tells Wilbur that's she's deposited her cocoon with her baby spiders and won't be coming back to the farm because she's dying. So Wilbur who won a special prize at the local cattle-fair takes the cocoon to the farm and after having said goodbye to his great friend, lovingly watches over the cocoon until the baby spiders are born. Out of these, three decide to stay at the farm with Wilbur, Charlotte's “natural heir”. A similar film, which originally used prestigious voices like Steve Buscemi (Templeton the mouse), Kathy Bates and Julia Roberts (Charlotte) was ready for the usual dubbing full of talent instead the dialogist Ruggero Busetti and the director Daniela Nardini created a true miracle for the dubbing cast: the entire cast is formed by refined professionals, the likes of which combined with a brilliant and original screenplay, a magical, musical commentary by Danny Elfman and an exemplary Italian dialogue which faithfully recalls the original novel even in the spun words of Charlotte's web (which furthermore in the Italian version are magically written in Italian), make this Charlotte's Web an authentic work of art: led by a Chiara Colizzi (Charlotte) at her best, sweet, tender, decisive, nostalgic – the voices create miracles. Alex Polidori is excellent in the role of Wilbur; Luca dal Fabbro is irresistible in the role of Templeton, the difficult mouse; Dario Penne is Samuel the sheep; Renzo Stacchi is Ike, the delightful horse who's afraid of spiders, the cows Bitsy and Betsy have the voices of the irresistible Laura Boccanera and Emanuela Rossi; Laura Romano and Roberto Draghetti are Gussy and Golly, the two geese. Amongst the actors' voices, which include Angelo Maggi, Roberta Greganti, Massimo de Ambrosis and Paola Giannetti, a mention must be made of the charming Erica Necci as the voice of Dakota Fanning.
[original review in Italian by Nunziante Valoroso]