Charlotte’s Web (1973) – The Animated One

“It’s not often that someone comes along who is a true friend and a good writer. Charlotte was both.”

I have a confession to make: I have never read Charlotte’s Web. I have never been a big book reader. It takes a certain type of book to hook me, and as a kid, that meant fast paced stories that had animals as main characters. Charlotte’s Web only had one of those criteria, and therefore I never even bothered to read it.

Because of this lack of reading, my opinion might be a lot different than someone who has read the book. I feel that people tend to be overly critical about lots of small details when it comes to book adaptations. I am, I have to say, very lenient. With most adaptations, I see the movie for what it is and view it more as a companion to the book. The book is almost always going to be better because for a lot of people that’s how they first experienced it. Reading a book, your imagination can take hold. The characters talk how you want them to talk, and you imagine a world that is very specifically yours. A good author can paint a very vivid picture of characters and setting, but all the details that your imagination adds may not ever be quite the same as anyone. This is why I feel comparing movies to books is a bit of a waste of time. They’re both a separate form of art. Judge them on themselves.

Ok now to the movie. I remember this one a lot. We owned it when I was a kid, and as I was watching it again, the words to the songs came back to me. Funny lines I used to laugh at as a kid I recited word for word. It was all there, somewhere, in my muscle memory. I found that extremely amazing.

The first thing that struck me, watching it as an adult without (trying to anyway) nostalgia glasses on is how timeless it is. It was made in the 70s, and sure, you can sort of tell because of the voice actors or the animation, but at the same time, the characters and the story really are timeless. Like the movie Babe, (which I will review later at some point), it gives a voice to farm animals. What kid doesn’t love animals, especially baby ones? What kid wouldn’t want to save the baby pig from slaughter and raise it? I know I sure would! (I was always that kid who came home with injured baby birds and kept them in a box for a day, convinced I was going to heal them… until they died…)

That leads me to another thing I noticed that this movie does extremely well. This, in a lot of ways, is a very dark movie. The subject matter (saving a pig from being slaughtered and death/cycle of life) is pretty intense for its target audience. At the same time, this movie doesn’t talk down to its audience. It doesn’t sugar coat things. The scene where Wilbur discovers his destiny is as straight to the point as possible: the farmer is going to fatten you up and kill you to use you as bacon or pork, the ram says (or something like that). He’s worth more dead than alive. It’s a big subject for a kid to wrap his or her head around. To be honest, I don’t remember how much of this I got as a kid. I don’t remember it affecting me too much. It was almost like it was something I already knew. Pigs are for food. That means that they have to die. I will, however, add that Charlotte’s death always affected me. It was sad, horrible, and I’m sure I used to cry and run to ask my mom why people died. But still, it was handled very well.

That being said, there is also value in life. Our titular spider sees that, and agrees to attempt to save Wilbur’s life. If there was ever an award for the most selfless character ever, I think my vote would go for Charlotte. She essentially spends her entire life giving her all to save her friend. It’s also a great lesson in friendship. You don’t have to look the same to be friends (something that ram needs to learn) and friends look out for each other. Wilbur of course returns the favor by making sure her egg sac and subsequent children are well looked after.

The other thing that this movie and the book are known for is demonstrating the power of the written word. Teaching kids vocabulary is a wonderful thing, and if I were honest, I’m pretty sure the reason I know what the word “humble” means is because of this movie. It points out the good things about words (the right ones can be used in such a powerful way that it can save lives) and the bad things (“humans are so gullible. They’ll believe anything that’s in print.”) A correctly chosen word is important, and Charlotte knows this.

I also feel like I can’t do any type of reaction to this movie without mentioning the music. Yes, some of it is insanely boring (I remember fast forwarding through “mother earth/father time” as a kid), but the majority is upbeat, cheerful and extremely catchy. I mean come on:

Oh wow look at him now, Zuckerman’s famous pig

Suey whaddya see, The greatest hog in history

Fine swine wish he was mine, What if he’s not so big?

He’s one terrific, radiant, humble thing-a-ma-jig-a-ma-pig!

Plus, any song that can rhyme “Great” and “Articulate” has my vote.

It’s not perfect movie by any means. Wilbur is kinda a sniveling baby half of the time, and many of the other characters aren’t really fleshed out. You have Fern’s brother Avery who just seems stuck in there for comic relief. I still also don’t understand the gosling Jeffrey who wants to be like the pig. I thought it was funny as a kid, but now? I don’t quite get it. Maybe it has no point, and that’s fine. Like I mentioned, some of the songs are quite boring, and if you have kids I honestly suggest fast-forwarding through them like we did. Otherwise your kids might lose focus. Then there’s Fern. She’s nice enough, but there’s something that I really don’t understand. At one point in the movie, she talks to her family about what happens on the farm when she goes to visit Wilbur, using the names of all the animals, including Charlotte. This suggests that she can understand what the animals are saying. If that’s true… why hasn’t she told her uncle Zuckerman NOT to kill Wilbur?? If she really loves this pig, why isn’t SHE fighting for him?

All in all, I’d definitely recommend this movie. It’s an oldie but a goodie, and as I said, it’s completely timeless. I have seen the newer live action remake (with Dakota Fanning), and that was good too (I don’t own it), but for me, I have a special place in my heart for the animated one.

I would give Charlotte’s Web (1973) 4 out of 5 stars.

Up next: The Care Bears Movie….

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Jetsons: The Movie (1990)

I don’t remember actually liking The Jetsons tv show growing up. It was always sort of an enigma to me; never as memorable as Yogi Bear or the Flintstones. I remembered it being on the air, but I always figured they were reruns of a show that was made in the 60s. Turns out I was half right. It was a show made in the 60s, where it only ran from 1963-1964. It actually had a longer run in the 80s, where a revamped show ran from 1985-1987. So I was watching reruns in the late 80s/early 90s, but it was probably of the latter incarnation. 

 I was only 5 when the movie came out, and I don’t think we ever owned it. Honestly? It was probably one of those movies that was on all the time on TV in between all the other Hana-Barbera cartoons. Back then all I remember about it was that it was like the TV show, and it had these cute little bear things in it. That’s why when I saw it at target for $5.00, I figured I had to get it. If not for me, then for any future children I may someday have (I use that reasoning a lot to rationalize my love of kid movies…).

 Upon watching it again I have to say, it’s… ok. Not great, not good even, but not harmful. It doesn’t teach any bad lessons. In fact, it doesn’t really teach any lessons, except maybe a small environmental thing in there. But they don’t even dig into that. To a kid, it’s probably fun. As an adult… not so much. In fact, it’s kinda boring, especially in the middle, and sadly, near the end. There’s not much build up. 

 The beginning starts off with the theme song, which I’m sure everyone knows. If there was one thing to warn me about what was coming up, it would be the fact that Tiffany is playing Judy Jetson. Maybe you don’t know about Tiffany. She was a singer in the late 80s that made her fortune playing in malls (it’s also who Robin Sparkles from How I Met Your Mother is based off of – you know… “Lets go to the mall!”). Yeah, apparently she didn’t have a last name? Because “Tiffany” is what she’s billed as. She is a sign of things to come: this is a VERY 80s style movie, for better and for worse (mostly worse).

I guess I shouldn’t be upset about that because the show was revamped and had a longer run in the 80s, but I feel like it went way too overboard. It’s like these two time periods mashed up in this odd way. The buildings, hovercrafts, and technology is from the 60s (or how the 60s thought the future would be like). Meanwhile, the clothes, songs, and some of the newer characters (I’m looking at you Apollo Blue) are 100% from the 80s. It’s just… weird. And for the record: If the future were like it is depicted with people walking on moving walkways all the time, everyone in the movie would be about 10x fatter. Just sayin’.

 The story is harmless and easy enough for a child to follow. George gets a “promotion” to run Spacely’s sprocket factory on an asteroid, but the factory keeps getting sabotaged. Most of the story is the family adjusting to the new living arrangements and investigating who is sabotaging the factory and why. Turns out its these cute little bear-things (the Grungees) who are upset because they live in the asteroid and the drill is ruining their homes. Of course in the end all is saved, because it’s a kids movie. It’s scary to think that what I picked out of this movie as a kid are the bear-things, when in truth they’re only in the last 15 minutes or so. 

There’s one more thing I want to say about this movie, and it’s strictly because it had me laughing and going “what??” the entire time. I’ve already mentioned how “Tiffany” is Judy Jetson. Her story line is RIDICULOUS. If I was like this as a teenager I would have wanted my parents to shoot me. She’s upset at the family moving (which makes sense) because she’s going to miss her date with super-hot musician/star Cosmic Cosmo. Once on the asteroid, she spends the next 30 minutes of the movie being upset at HIM because he moved on and obviously found another girl. She calls him her boyfriend when she meets another guy, and blames Cosmo for…. Something…?? Saying she’s never going to trust another man again. Yeah… tell me how that makes sense? 

 All in all, Jetsons: the movie is a harmless romp. If you have kids they’ll probably enjoy it at least once. It does move a bit slow, and there really is no major build up in the end. The characters are sort of one-dimensional, and I understand why they added some new characters, but others seriously seem completely unwarranted. The animation is typical early 90s, complete with some seriously dated CGI. You can tell they wanted to show off, and honestly for the time it doesn’t look that bad. 

I give Jetsons: the movie 2.5 stars out of 5.

 

Up next: Charlotte’s Web (1972)

Let me start by saying this: I own a LOT of movies. I have ever since I can remember. My family was one of those in the 90’s that had two bookshelves full of VHS tapes, including many of the puffy oversized disney ones. Buying and watching movies is in my blood. So of course when DVDs come out and I get to college, I start a collection of my own.

In college, I had a binder full of movies. My cases were all at home, and everyone I knew would come to me and borrow movies. I got lots of “oh wow, I can’t believe you have that movie,” or “that’s a LOT of movies… have you actually seen all of them?” To that I answer, of course I had seen all of the movies I owned. That’s why I bought them.

Then I met my husband, who, scarily enough, had just about as many movies as I did. When we moved in together and got married in 2010, we had to get rid of about 50 movies because they were duplicates. His sister and mine loved us. Free movies.

This is our movie collection today:

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Enter the reason for starting this blog. Now when people ask “have you seen all those movies?” I sadly have to answer “no.” Half of them I’ve never seen. And many of them are classics, like the Godfather, or movies I have no interest in seeing, like Apocolypse Now. However, I am now undertaking the arduous task of actually watching every single movie my husband and I own. I will be going through shelf by shelf, watching each one in its entirety, even if I have no want to see it.

I’m going to post about each movie. My thoughts on it when I first saw it (if i remember), why I bought it, what I think of it now, and if I would recommend it. My eclectic nature and taste in movies I’m sure will be much different than many people, but I think it will be fun.