Babs and I took my three nieces, ages 8, 6 and 4 to see Charlotte's Web yesterday afternoon. The movie is well done and faithful to the beloved book of the same name. Here's my interpretation of their reactions, which I hope will be helpful to those of you planning to take your own youngsters to this movie.
The oldest enjoyed it and followed it closely. Afterwards she told me that it was "better than the cartoon" because it included the scenes from the book where Fern brings Wilbur to school and when Wilbur meets Charlotte's offspring and names the 3 who stay. The middle niece added that there "wasn't any rain" in the cartoon while there were a couple of rainy day scenes in the movie. The youngest whispered in my ear from the minute the movie started, seeking reassurance that Wilbur wouldn't be killed in the movie and it would be like the cartoon. Clearly the cartoon version of the book has made the rounds of the preschool and elementary set and will influence the opinion of the children who have seen it.
Although my 8 year old niece followed the movie closely, both of the younger two girls found it got tedious and became restless. About 30 minutes into the movie the youngest started asking when it would be over. Ten minutes was my standard answer and seemed to satisfy her for a while until she asked again. Of course I had to take both of them to the bathroom so they could get a break. The movie, like the book, emphasizes dialogue rather than action. So I wouldn't recommend taking preschool age children to the movie unless they need to come along with older siblings. It's too long and not active enough for them.
Be prepared to discuss death and dying with the kids after they see this movie. The theme of the story is rescuing Wilbur the Pig from his intended fate as bacon and ham. Plus the heroine of the story, Charlotte the spider, dies at the end. My little four year old needed constant reassurance about Wilbur throughout the movie and at the end of it began asking questions about how and why people die.
Her reaction was probably enhanced because within five minutes of coming to my house she wanted to know where Gretel The Noble Dog was. She'd heard before that Gretel died, but started to realize what that meant when she didn't see her in her accustomed place. Then she and her sisters had to see Gretel's grave and the little marker we placed over it and ask questions about it. We had a good discussion with the girls and I think it probably helped the younger two process the movie experience.
Babs and I enjoyed the movie and I think most adults and older children and teenagers will like it. I would be cautious about taking younger children to it, however.