Steve Buscemi's invigorating vocal characterization of Templeton the rat is the only high point in this sleep-inducing live action-animated revamp of the 1973 animated classic based on E.B White's 1952 children's book. The ever-insufferable Dakota Fanning plays Fern, the precocious little farm girl who saves the life of a runty pig she names Wilbur, who needs the exhaustive assistance of a kindly spider named Charlotte (voiced by Julia Roberts) in order to avoid ending up hanging upside down in the smokehouse. Everything about the movie is a rote retelling of the story set in a vaguely '50s era Americana where nothing happens that doesn't revolve around farm animals. Director Gary Winick ("Tadpole") never varies the film's dirge-like rhythm as he walks through the plot like he's passing around a collection plate at a late night church service.
Rated G. 96 mins. (C-) (Two Stars)