©2008 Big Empire Industries and Randy Shandis Enterprises
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This week:
Charlotte's Web

Filthy says:
"So why did I have to see all that shitty live-action Disney crap as a kid?"

It sort of sucks that today's kids get a crapload better Charlotte's Web movie than my generation did. We got this cheap Hannah-Barbera pile of steaming shit with herky jerky movement, static backgrounds, characters who looked like outcasts from Scooby-Doo, Paul Lynde as a rat and way too many awful, sappy songs. That 1973 movie was so damn bad that even a six-year old getting free popcorn would walk out of it. It represented the absolute minimum level of effort required to make an animated movie, less even than my high-school magnum opus The Lemons of Hell and its sequel The Lemons of Hell II: The Juicening. The second one was slapped together to take advantage of the fact that I got not only my parents but my grandmother to watch the first one. It was only three minutes long and still they walked out.

But you didn't come here to listen to me bitch about my shitty past. Well, some of you didn't. You came to compare your opinions on movies with mine and then tell me I'm an asshole when we disagree. I know the sort of people who read me are the kind who love the old New Yorker stalwart E. B. White and his erudite New England ways. Charlotte's Web was first a beloved children's novel before Hollywood raped it and tore the entrails from its cavity during the Me Decade. The people who made the new version call the book a classic and I suppose it is. It was popular when I was a kid and still is. Thousands of lazy grade-school teachers continue to assign it because they don't feel like finding anything different. And what makes something more classic than that?

The new Charlotte's Web hardly fucks around with the E. B. White's source material. It is the tale of runt pig Wilbur, who is saved from death at birth by a girl and then allowed to live on her uncle's farm. Still, like in everyone's life, death is always right around the corner. For Wilbur, he may become the Christmas ham. For the rest of us, we will almost all die after passing out drunk in a blizzard and hitting or head on a partially snow-covered snow drift, or sick with dysentery on the steps of an embassy in a foreign country where nobody understands you, or by one day noticing a little blood in your urine that, a week later, becomes a lot of blood, and a week after that it's a constant stream and you can't change your underwear fast enough to save your pants. So, yeah, the movie is about the universal theme of death. Or is it universal? George Noory had an interesting guest on just last night who said he was immortal. George believed him, so why shouldn't we?

I digress. Wilbur's gets his sentence commuted a few times when spider Charlotte befriends him and spins webs over his pen that declare him as "some pig", "terrific" and "radiant." These stir up excitement and draw attention to the little porker. Still, a date with the chopping block is looming like the sense of dread that overwhelms a man who has secretly spent his wife's pin money on a case of Hamm's and now she's looking for it. At first, Charlotte's webs only distract people. Finally, though, and only after winning a county fair prize, the farmer and his family understand the value of Wilbur and choose to spare his life.

At the same time, Charlotte is dropping babies faster than a welfare mother and getting ready to shuffle off her mortal coil. She leaves behind 514 kids to suck at society's teat. Hmm, sounds an awful lot like a certain harelip I know. Wilbur is saved, but sad that his friend has died, and then thrilled that she left behind replacements. Something about the circle of life is left unsaid. And thank God. That would have made it treacly crap.

The novel is a pretty damn good story. It's a kids' movie about death, and yet it never gets preachy or corny. It trusts kids enough to let the come to their own conclusions. Of course, the first time I read it, my conclusion was "I want a talking pig, too." The new movie version is about as faithful as you can be to E. B. White, right up until the end, when the family changes its mind and goes ahead eats Wilbur. He was, apparently, delicious. I somehow doubt that will bring much comfort to the little ones in the audience, though. Regardless of the surprise ending, the movie's biggest strength is its source material.

The cast is studded with celebrity voices. They didn't do a God damn thing for me. I seriously doubt any kid sat there marveling that the spider had Julia Roberts' voice, or the geese were sassy Oprah Winfrey and Cedric the Entertainer. But, you know, Hollywood's number one job is keeping its stars employed. So, here they. So is that weird little girl Dakota Fanning. Luckily, we don't spend much time with her. most of the time is spent with the well-done and unflashy computer-animated animals. Mostly, the animals move and act like animals, except they talk. But,that's totally believable. I had a huge argument with a talking Canada goose just last night about NAFTA and how it lets these fucking fowls shit all over the park with impunity.

Like its last movie, How to Eat Friend Worms, Walden Media has carved out a niche making movies for kids that really are for kids. None of this phony hip shit that is aimed at parents, or lame-ass pop culture references that will make the movie look old faster than a three-pack-a-day smoker. I think it's damn great what they're doing. Treat kids with respect. Hell, treat me with respect. And treat authors with respect. And treat Canada geese with respect, because those fuckers bite.

Four Fingers for Charlotte's Web. It's so good it nearly made me forget the crappy version they gave me as a kid.



Maria Salas of NBC

Night at the Museum is "The most fun you'll have this Christmas!"

We are Marshall is "Amazing. Incredible. Heartwarming.

The Holiday is "The perfect holiday comedy!"

Filthy's Reading
Jon Krakauer- Under the Banner of Heaven

Listening to
The Hold Steady - Boys and Girls in America


Volume 2