Charlotte's Web (1973)

Genres - Children's/Family  |   Sub-Genres - Animated Musical, Children's Fantasy  |   Release Date - Feb 22, 1973 (USA - Unknown)  |   Run Time - 93 min.  |   Countries - United States   |   MPAA Rating - G
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E.B. White's classic Charlotte's Web is one of the 20th century's most beloved children's books. The film version is a faithful adaptation, retaining all of the characters -- and most of their characteristics. The gentle but mysterious and at times discomforting tone of the original has been kept, and no attempt has been made to soften the existential sadness at the story's core -- the lesson that everyone lives and then dies, even if that death is successfully postponed for a while. Despite this, the film has the book's generally cheerful and optimistic tone. Voice characterizations are good, with Debbie Reynolds a properly maternal and compassionate Charlotte and Henry Gibson innocent and unassuming as Wilbur. Paul Lynde's Templeton is a standout, as would be expected from the natural mating of actor and role. The film's good points are undermined somewhat by a lackluster score (although the title song is rather haunting) and more seriously by the mediocre animation. Although better than its work for television, Hanna-Barbera's animation is too stiff and money-conscious to do justice to the story. That said, the backgrounds are generally very good, and some sequences involving weather and seasons are very effective. While the lack of top-drawer animation dilutes the film's effectiveness, it is still a fine and worthwhile adaptation.