19 December 2006

Charlotte's review outtakes!

Spoilers all over the place! So shut your eyes when you read this post for …

Charlotte’s Travesty!

Or, Babe III.

Before the movie started, they showed the preview to Bridge to Terbithina. Omg. And I thought this movie was so totally not in the book! Giants and odd creatures everywhere? Has it been that long since I read the book? Because I don’t remember that kind of fantasy aspect to it.

Pretty opening in the Garth Williams style.

No “Where’s Papa going with that ax”? What happened?

In the book, Fern talked Pa out of killing Wilbur. Because of her strong words, he gave her the pig. In the movie, Dakota pulled the pig out of her dad’s arms. What a pushover dad she has.

Nice cut to frying bacon after the farrowing scene, tho.

What on earth is that pig doing in Fern’s bed? It’s nice that she sang him a lullaby, but that’s so totally not a farm girl thing. Not to mention I don’t know what kind of parents would have this little backbone to say “No pigs in bed!”

Bucolic narrator: It was just a big red barn full of typical stuff.

You know, if Andy wrote about barns like that, he would have won the Newbery.

Bucolic narrator: Just because it was a barn didn’t mean it was full of life.

That really threw me for a loop. Anybody remember the beginning of chapter three, the lovely essay about the barn being a lovely place, full of interesting things and full of life? The barn as, let us say, a microcosm of the world, where so many beautiful things happen? But this film is so determined to turn that on its head. That’s part of the reason I’m so down on this film, because Andy created this beautiful world and they just deny it, except for the bravery and nobility of Charlotte and Wilbur and Fern.

My word, these farm animals are rude and condescending, calling Wilbur and each other names. So much of this movie follows that formula that you must have tension in every scene, even if the tension is nonsensical.

There’s the first fart joke. And then all the animals call each other names again. This is to show the viewer that the animals do not get along. I don’t think Charlotte could help this; I think they need therapy.

I do like that view of Templeton’s underground nest. That’s really cool. I wish they had viewed the barn with the same interest and fascination.

Now we have these crows and the old joke about the scarecrow, “When’s that guy going to look away?” which of course was not in the book. And do they not think that we have seen this corny joke before?

Horse: Spider! (faints)

--But why on earth would any farm animal worth his salt be scared by a spider?

And then the animals do their general disparagement of spiders. I can’t get over how rude these guys are.

Bucolic narrator: Ignorance is bliss.
Me: And I’m starting to believe it’s true. This guy is actually making a case for ignorance, like it’s a good thing.

The gander made a proper speech when the goslings hatched, right from the text. That rotten egg that Templeton rolled away was right up the filmmaker’s alley. At last, Andy’s text made a concession for them!

Fart joke #2 came up when the egg was broken.

They did actually stick to the Dr. Dorian scene. It was nice to hear actual text. Oh, thank you, thank you!

They did do justice to Charlotte acting like a spider, focusing on the legs with their flair for balletic movement. I liked that they did pay attention to some spider details, like when a spider lands anywhere, she always fastens her line to the ground next to her. And the scenes where Charlotte was building her web were awesome. I was pleased by that. Thank dog for special effects, or else I would have been griping all through this review.

So totally not the farm: slopping the pig at high noon, and the farmer struggling to get out of bed at 6 a.m., and the way they pen a bunch of high-manure-producing animals on the barn’s ground floor.

And then that damn narrator comes in with his clunky cornpone prose. Do they really think rural folks talk like that? Don’t they know that many farmers have a college degree in agribusiness?

I’m surprised they wouldn’t think that Fern knows about the fair. She’d surely know how to show her own livestock. She’s probably in the junior FFA already.

Third fart joke. But the audience laughed.

There’s those crows again being scared by a scarecrow. So they go chase Templeton instead. Doesn’t this rat know to stay out of sight? Oh, look, a toilet joke. Oh, well, it’s just cheap entertainment.

A second neat web-building scene. Aah, thank goodness.

Fern wants to take Wilbur to the fair. “Fern, what’s gotten into you?” says her mom. But people who own livestock generally show it at the fair and various contests, so their winning livestock or their progeny can be sold for higher prices.

Homer is complaining that if he enters Wilbur, that he’ll be out the entrance fee. Chill, dude. Entrance fee is pretty cheap. Why are you worried about the entrance fee anyway when, as a farmer, you’re about $10,000 in debt to the bank?

Nice father-daughter bonding. Nice that Fern got her Uncle Homer to go to the Fair after all, despite the fact that he doesn’t seem to know the first thing about farming or fairs. And there’s a nice bit with Fern and Henry Fussy. Fern runs off with Henry when Wilbur’s getting his prize, which is also right.

But what the hell is that speech that Homer’s giving. You have full access to Andy’s words and you wrote this!

Damn that’s a disgustingly big egg sac, bigger’n Charlotte even. No wonder she’s dying.

As usual I cried when Charlotte died. Even though I was totally aghast that they did not use Andy’s words. “She never moved again. Next day, as the Ferris wheel was being taken apart and the race horses were being loaded into vans and the entertainers were packing up their belongings and driving away in their trailers, Charlotte died. The Fair Grounds were soon deserted. The sheds and buildings were empty and forlorn. The infield was littered with bottles and trash. Nobody, of the hundreds of people that had visited the Fair, knew that a grey spider had played the most important part of all. Nobody was with her when she died.” No words at all.

But at least that damn narrator didn’t jump in with his own bit of trite prose.

Except in the next scene, he says, “Now that isn’t to say that Charlotte was gone forever.” Um, actually, she was. But see, in the book, it’s part of the grand course of life and death that goes on forever. In the movie, it’s like we have to gloss over it. Barely a glimpse of the ax in the first scene. No deathly fear and crying from Wilbur when he’s told of his impeding death.

It was lovely to see Wilbur standing in the snow until the narrator said, “It was as if Charlotte had shaken it out of the sky.” Come again?

When the baby spiders hatched, it started moving into horror movie territory. The wee spiders started crawling around on the farm animals’ faces, looking remarkably like little ticks. Ick!

But when Wilbur met the three daughters, that was so right, and they actually took that from the text, as well as the speech he made.

The audience liked fat Templeton.

“An ordinary barn and a pig that welcomed his second spring. Followed by many more. Because someone stopped to see the beauty blah blah.” You write for an advertising company or something?

At least they quoted the last sentence. Though to have quoted the last paragraph would have been better: “Wilbur never forgot Charlotte. Although he loved her children and grandchildren dearly, none of the new spiders ever quite took her place in his heart. She was in a class by herself. It is not often that someone comes along who is a true friend and a good writer. Charlotte was both.”

Ah, well, people, let's go read some books!


Don Tate II said...

I think I'd have been creeped out by Charlotte's details. I'll have to read the book now, I'm late.

Lady S said...

I saw the trailer for Bridge to Terabithea, and I don't recognize the book I love. It is a book about relationships and death. It is not FREAKIN' Narnia. I am so not happy. At least they did the rope swing and not a log like the first version.

I am not sure if I want to see Charlotte.

Melinda said...

Don, Charlotte looked actually halfway decent for a spider. But if you're not a big spider fan, I understand. (I like spiders ... two words ... mosquito eaters!)

Lady S, I think you're right about Bridge. It has been absolute eons since I read the book, long enough for me (when I saw the trailer) to wonder, well, maybe I've forgotten everything that happened in the book except for the sad ending. But I, too, remembered that it seemed more like a book about relationships than a fantasy novel.