Fern (Dakota Fanning) lives with her father (Kevin Anderson), mother (Essie Davis), and brother (Louis Corbett) on a farm. When a new litter of pigs is born, her dad realizes that the mother will not be able to feed the runt, so he prepares to kill him. Fern intercedes and vows to look after this helpless infant, whom she names Wilbur. She bottlefeeds him and pushes him around in a baby carriage. Since Fern can't take him to school, her mother suggests she put the animal in the barn of her uncle Zuckerman (Gary Basaraba), who lives across the way. Fern visits Wilbur (voiced by Dominic Scott Kay) every day.
Still, the little pig is a bit lonely in the barn, and the other animals there aren't much help: a horse (Robert Redford), two geese (Oprah Winfrey, Cedric the Entertainer), two cows (Kathy Bates, Reba McEntire), a group of sheep (led by John Cleese), and a rat named Templeton (Steve Buscemi). Although they start out by being critical of Wilber, they slowly come to realize that he is quite a charming and enthusiastic addition to the place. But that doesn't mean they want to play with Wilbur, who loves rolling around in the mud and jumping up and down. His loneliness is only assuaged when he meets Charlotte (Julia Roberts), a grey spider who resides in a web in the corner of the barn door. She lives by sucking the blood out of flies and other insects. Charlotte appreciates Wilbur's playful nature.
One of the first things that she notices about her new friend is that he is not bothered by her body. The other animals are turned off by spiders especially the horse who is quite phobic about them. Wilbur, on the other hand, thinks that Charlotte is beautiful and that she provides a worthwhile service by keeping the insect population in the barn down. She is also a great solace to the pig when he learns the shocking news that he is destined to be slaughtered and will never see the snows of winter. Out of her love for Wilbur, Charlotte promises him that he won't be killed for Christmas dinner.
True to her word, the imaginative spider comes up with a plan to save her friend. She weaves words into her web describing the little fellow: "Some Pig," "Radiant" and "Humble." Soon the whole community has heard about the miraculous appearance of words in the web on Zuckerman's barn door. Meanwhile, Fern's mother worries about the effect of all this on her daughter, who is a loner, but a doctor assures her that everything is okay with the girl. When Zuckerman decides to take Wilbur to the local fair, Charlotte and Templeton go along.
Charlotte's Web was written in 1952 by E. B. White ,and it is one of the most popular children's books of all time. In a letter to a young reader, the essayist and poet wrote:
"In real life, a spider doesn't spin words in her web. . . . But real life is only one kind of life there is also the life of the imagination. And although my stories are imaginary, I like to think there is some truth in them, too truth about the way people and animals feel and act."
This delightful and enchanting screen version directed by Gary Winick remains very true to the White text, which is also present in snippets of narration appropriately voiced by playwright Sam Shepard. The story conveys the truth about the beauty of friendship as a loving relationship that fills us with pleasure and a sense of well-being. It also speaks to the truth of creativity which always finds a way of solving tough problems. Words can be used to either harm or to heal people this story models the better choice. We love the dynamism inherent in the use of the word "radiant" for Wilbur; it's an apt description of his keen sense of enthusiasm. Just look at the way he responds so positively to everyone's name!
This story also illustrates the truth that kindness brings out the best in others. It is contagious. The movie makes us believers in miracles. As Zuckerman says in his speech at the fair, we just need to have eyes that are able to see miracles when they happen in the midst of our ordinary days. The last and the best truths in Charlotte's Web are about death and the afterlife. Through Charlotte and Wilbur's friendship, we are given an opportunity to come to terms with death and recognize that there is an afterlife for our deeds and gifts to the world. There is no end to the good we do, and it lives on after we are gone.
Special DVD features include: a commentary by director Gary Winick, producer Jordan Kerner, and visual effects supervisor John Andrew Berton; featurettes: "Making Some Movie," "Flacka’s Pig Tails," "How Do They Do That?," "What Makes a Classic?," "Animatronics (That’s Just a Fancy Word for Puppets)," and "Where Are They Now?"; a music video "Ordinary Miracle" by Sarah McLachlan; a music video "Make a Wish" by Bob Carlisle and Lucy Kane; "A Day At The Fair"; Farm Photo Album; a gag reel; deleted scenes with optional commentary by Gary Winick, Charlotte's Web Storybook Creator; Charlotte's Web original theatrical web site archive; and Charlotte's Web Sega Game Level demo.