I remember going to see the original version of Charlotte’s Web on an excursion in primary school. I remember one of the tough kids who used to tease me a lot with - unbelievably - tears in his eyes when the lights came up!
Suddenly he wasn’t so tough anymore.
So, in one sense Charlotte gave me something there. I do remember I loved the film, and being eight or nine, so did everyone else. Even toughie from Toughtown. That’s what made it so impossible for me to comprehend that they would attach a sequel to this film after over 20 years! What’s more, I haven’t seen the original in at least ten years, but I don’t remember the animation looking so weak.
Charlotte’s Web 2: Wilbur’s Great Adventure sees that ‘Some Pig’ Wilbur the following season after Charlotte’s unhappy demise. She has three daughters surviving her now and they are just as friendly toward Wilbur as their mom was. When Wilbur learns of a young sheep, Cardigan, being ostracised in the farmyard for his unusual looks (he has black fur among a field of white) he takes him under his... ahem, trotter. They soon become lifelong pals while singing a song about how great it is to be a pig (have sung that one myself on occasion...)
Anyhow, when Cardigan gets sold to another farm, Wilbur sees it as his duty to rescue him or something. So, taking his three spider allies and Templeton, the sleazy sideshow rat from the first film (who has totally wimped out in this one), he sets off to save Cardigan. Naturally, hilarity ensues, roll credits.
|"It was a new Wilbur... All pig, all action!"|
This is eye candy for kids at best here. I’d be surprised if the kids of today even know who Charlotte is, let alone why she has a web and a sequel named after her, but there you go. This is certainly a more sterilised version than the first (if memory serves) and the animation looks fairly cheaply produced in overseas studios. I’ve seen worse follow-ups, without doubt, but some of the artwork in this truly looks student designed. Or Disney dropout perhaps, I dunno, but it’s a little disappointing to see the name of a beloved children’s favourite turned into this rather droll exercise in friendship and loyalty. It’s been written recently to judge from some of the common street jargon used, and that is wholly at odds with the first.
The kids will enjoy it I imagine, regardless of them either knowing or not knowing who Charlotte is/was. There are plenty of kid jokes thrown in, farmers falling down, getting gross with pigs, burping and generally having fun getting dirty, but for any adults forced to sit in this might be a chew-your-arm-off-to-escape affair.
Presented in 4:3, there can be little doubt as to what the producers intended doing with this. The backgrounds are fabulously hand painted I have to say, and they use bold colours and well balanced palettes making them mostly quite aesthetic, which was a little surprising when considering the quality of linework in the animation. This has been digitally coloured and scanned from original drawings (like everything else today), but the linework is mostly uniform without any deviation in thickness or depth. Even when utilising a shading palette for depth the characters still look a little flat, unfortunately. Still, the kids won’t give a rat’s.
Created for the modern TV world, we get Dolby Digital surround 3.1, which is well balanced and even. The dialogue is all clear and easily understood (even if the lip synch is out occasionally), although Wilbur sounds like Shaggy from the old Scooby-Doo show. And boy, did that take me back (having refused point blank and outright to never watch the live-action version). The sound effects are naturally similar to Scooby-Doo as well in that they are all stock sound effects (and some are crap). However, they are all well balanced with the dialogue and the music. There are four songs in the film that may cause nails to clutch at lounge chair arms, but they at least sound clear and noise free.
A disappointing excursion that merges old school with new school and succeeds in distancing itself from both. There are plenty of characters to amuse the children, but as far as grown ups are concerned, this is less than plausible. Bunches of pretty colours and some beautiful backgrounds were the highlight here for me and are also sure to capture the kids’ eye for the entire 80 minutes.
I’ve seen better animation in better packages, but I’ve also seen much, much worse for around the same money.