Story

Charlotte’s Web tells the tale of Wilbur, the runt of the spring litter of piglets, who is saved from certain death by Fern (voiced by Dakota Fanning), the farmer’s daughter. Fern nurtures and feeds Wilbur and fights for his right to life, but when her care for him affects her school life, her parents encourage her to place him in her uncle’s barn across the road.

In the barn, Wilbur meets the menagerie of farmyard animals and the odd rodent. His cheery and all-welcoming disposition is at odds with the fearful and suspicious attitude of the other animals. He finds a friend in a spider named Charlotte (Julia Roberts), who herself is despised by the other animals. When it is apparent that Wilbur’s life may be at risk, due to the fast approaching winter and Christmas festivities, Charlotte makes a promise to Wilbur to save his life. Wilbur’s infectious personality, Charlotte’s efforts and the increasingly supportive help of the other animals have a positive impact on the farm, its residents and the whole town.

Themes

The cycle of life

Violence

  • When attempting to escape the barn and follow Fern to school, Wilbur repeatedly runs head first into a wooden fence beam. He is briefly stunned and thrown back each time, but is eventually successful.
  • Templeton (the Rat) is chased by two hungry crows who peck him on the back. As he tries to escape, he has a number of falls and crashes, and is heard to yell out briefly in pain.

Content that may disturb children

Under 8

  • Charlotte’s appearance may frighten some children. Wilbur is not afraid of her, but other animals clearly are initially afraid and revolted by her.
  • When Fern’s father notices that Wilbur is the runt of the pack, he picks up Wilbur and goes to get an axe, with the intention of killing him. Fern looks aghast and stops him from killing Wilbur.
  • Wilbur is initially sad at being separated from Fern when he is placed in the barn with all the other animals.
  • Templeton makes taunting remarks about the likelihood of Wilbur being killed for Christmas dinner. Wilbur is scared by this, but is reassured by Charlotte’s promise to save him.
    Wilbur is clearly very distressed and cries when he learns that Charlotte is dying and will not be returning to the farm with him (after the County Fair).
  • Charlotte is portrayed increasingly ill and weak, and slowly dies.
  • On returning to the farm, Wilbur and all the animals are sad, but look forward to looking after Charlotte’s nest.

Over 8

Some children in this age group could be concerned by the threats to Wilbur, his distress and Charlotte’s death. Children who are particularly frightened by spiders might be worried by Charlotte.

Product placement 

None

Sexual references

None

Nudity and sexual activity

None

Alcohol, drugs and other substances

None

Coarse language

This movie contains one example of mild coarse language.

Ideas to discuss with your children

Charlotte’s Web is a children’s fantasy tale about overcoming adversity and prejudice, and seeing beauty in the ordinary. Children and adults are likely to find the story and characters appealing. Some children could be concerned by the threats to Wilbur, his distress and Charlotte’s death. Children who are particularly frightened by spiders might be worried by Charlotte.

You may wish to talk about the values presented in this movie:

  • friendship
  • kindness, patience and generosity
  • seeing beyond the superficial or the ordinary
  • sticking up for your friends and what you believe in.

You could also discuss the cycle of life – the idea that Charlotte’s death will be followed by life continued through her children.