The 2006 movie version of Charlotte's Web is not as good as the book. This should be no surprise, as movie versions of beloved books are never as good as the books*, but it still saddened me as the Mister and I watched the movie last night. Unlike the horrible Secret of NIMH, which utterly ruined the Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH, the recent version of Charlotte's Web is true to the plot. Charlotte's Web, however, is a quiet magical story. Quiet magic doesn't translate to feature films well, and adding "action" sequences with Templeton, the rat, and celebrity voices (Julia Roberts, you have a very nice voice, but I'm sorry, you're not Charlotte) doesn't do it.
While Templeton's role in the story is comic relief, his development of compassion is one of the great transformations of the book. They tried to force this in the movie, but it didn't work and I ended up just feeling sorry for the poor rat, whose book character is one of my all time favorite rodent side-kicks.
Despite numerous problems, I'm glad we watched Charlotte's Web. I am prone to crying at no provocation these days (see reason in ROUS post), but would have wept profusely at the end of the story regardless. It's not Charlotte's death that usually gets me, it's Wilbur's abandonment by her children and then, when it looks like a few are going to stay and be friends, E.B. White goes and points out how none could possibly replace Charlotte (the movie thankfully leaves out that tear-jerking line, but I know the book well enough to know that it accompanies the "It is not often that someone comes along who is a true friend and a good writer. Charlotte was both." line that was included).
I'm pretty sure I didn't think the book was terribly sad as a child, but as a teenager and later, the truth that friends come and go but are irreplaceable has struck me as incredibly sad.
Summary Recommendation: Read the fabulous book. Skip the movie. Babe is a better pig movie. Ratatouille a better rat movie.
* The movie Joy Luck Club truly enhanced Amy Tan's book I adored. The BBC version of Pride and Prejudice, most of the Harry Potter movies and The Lord of the Rings all do honor to the great books they are made from, if, of course, not as great.