Charlotte's Web Gary Winick

Charlotte’s Web is a film unstinting in its mediocrity: professionally but not beautifully shot, competently but not intelligently scripted, it’s the model of just-squeaks-by filmmaking. And while the kiddies may not mind, anyone else is warned that there isn’t much going on. Based on E.B. White’s classic children’s book, it tells the story of runty piglet Wilbur (voiced by Dominic Scott Kay) who leads a life seemingly destined for the chopping block until kindly spider Charlotte (Julia Roberts) intervenes. She spins verbal praise for the pig in her webs that awes the surrounding citizenry, keeping it up until the pig is safe, and before she has her own rendezvous with mortality. This is one of those all-star voice talent jamborees, meaning Robert Redford, Steve Buscemi, John Cleese, Oprah Winfrey and a host of others deliver the bad puns and flimsy in-jokes that all kid pix need to get by. It’s not mind-damagingly bad but just barely enough not to get on your nerves; the film knows exactly how much it can get away with without trying and doesn’t push the envelope any further. And the filmmakers don’t honour the melancholy of the original, softening things considerably with some inappropriate Spielberg-ian awe that’s out of place in the world of the original. Extras include an effusive commentary by director Gary Winick, a second commentary with too-credulous producer Jordan Kerner and fastidious visual effects supervisor John Andrew Berton Jr., an okay "making of” featurette, further (and cloying) featurettes on the animal training, the voice talents, the source novel and an animal sanctuary, a slideshow of pictures from the county fair scene, a gag reel, a photo gallery, six deleted scenes with director commentary, a DVD-Rom "storybook creator,” a Sega game demo, and videos by Sarah McLachlan, Bob Carlisle and Lucy Kane. (Paramount)