NOTE: Another really great spoiler sent in by Robbie Tan who tells us... "This movie has some of the most beautiful scenery and some of the most poignant scenes. Don’t stop your tears!"
The film begins with a narrator explaining how sometimes two ordinary things can get together and make something extraordinary.
Fern (Dakota Fanning) wakes up in the middle of the night and sees a light in their barn. Even though it’s raining, she rushes in as she knows its time for the mother pig to give birth. True enough, she finds a dozen piglets and her father. His father picks up the runt and an ax. Fern saves the runt, as she finds it ‘unfair’ that being born small gets no break in life. Fern nurses the pig and even brings it to school, and do so many things that show how much she is taken by her pet.
However, the pig is getting bigger. Her father persuades Fern to ‘sell’ Wilbur (the pig) to her Uncle Homer Zuckerman, who lives just across the street. Even though not technically hers anymore, she still lavishes the same affection for her pet, saying “Goodbye” to Wilbur as she goes to school and “Good night” before she goes to bed.
In the barn, Wilbur meets the locals, Ike (the horse), Mr. Gussy and Mrs. Golly (ducks), Samuel (the top sheep), Mrs. Bitsy and Betsy (cows) and Templeton (the rat). The locals are kind but are slightly aloof, for they know what happens to ‘spring pigs’ come winter.
Her mother feels slightly concerned for her daughter’s behavior and one night, prevails upon Fern to stay home and do her homework. Wilbur feels abandoned, as this is the first night Fern hasn’t said “Good night” to him. A kind voice tells Wilbur to sleep well as he is not alone, he is with a friend.
Wilbur wakes up and looks for the source of the voice. It was a spider (Charlotte), who Wilbur, in all his innocence, welcomes with open arms. The other animals do not particularly like this new denizen (especially Ike who is afraid of spiders) but accepts her just the same.
Templeton gives Wilbur the cold hard facts, ‘spring pigs’ do not see the snow of winter. They are led up to the ‘smoke house’ where they are served to the family for the holidays. Charlotte, however, promises Wilbur that she will do everything she can to prevent this from happening. They set to thinking.
One night while spinning her web, Charlotte notices that a stray strand from her web resembles the letter ‘S’. She gets an idea and starts to rework her web.
In the morning, the human folks are surprised to read ‘some pig’ in a spider’s web. Word spreads and soon, the whole countryside goes to the Zuckerman farm to see for themselves this small ’miracle’ in their midst. Fern and Wilbur bask in their fame but the townsfolk interest fades as the spider’s web fades.
Charlotte then asks Templeton to find her some ‘words’ in which to write in her next web. Templeton goes to his usual ‘dump’ where he narrowly escapes two crazed crows and brings Charlotte a piece of paper with words. Charlotte decides upon a word that describes Wilbur and sets to work in the night.
The next day, the human community is again abuzz as the word ’terrific’ is clearly spelled out in the web. Wilbur and Fern again share in the limelight of this new ‘miracle’. But like the last time, interest faded with the web.
Summer turns to autumn and Charlotte and Wilbur are desperate. The humans have shown no sign of changing Wilbur’s fate come winter. Charlotte then spins the word ‘radiant’ in her web and the community is alive again. Basking in the glory of this latest ‘miracle’, farmer Homer decides to enter Wilbur in the upcoming county fair. Charlotte initially refused to accompany Wilbur, as she is expecting but changes her mind in the end. Templeton goes along for the ‘treats’ to be found in the fair.
At the fair, Wilbur is pitted against Uncle, a huge specimen of the piggy folk. Charlotte turns to Templeton for one last word and he delivers. Charlotte, heavy with babies, spins her web one last time.
In the morning, the Zuckerman family is disappointed that the judges arrived early and awarded the blue ribbon to Uncle. However, the fair is turned upside down as the folks crowd to see Charlotte’s last word for Wilbur “humble”.
One of the fair’s governors asks the Zuckermans to accompany them to the stage where they pin a Governor’s medal to Wilbur. That and a check finally ensure Wilbur’s life. As Wilbur and the Zuckermans are cheered on, Charlotte lays dying after laying her eggs. Wilbur arrives in time for one more poignant exchange and with Templeton’s help, takes home Charlotte’s eggs to the barn. In the winter, Wilbur is spared as the Zuckermans have a happy holiday.
In the barn, the folks there take turns watching Charlotte’s eggs, even Ike who rises from his fear to take his turn in the ‘hatching’.
Spring comes again and the spiders hatch. As the spiders are carried away in the breeze, Wilbur is sad as he will have no one to share Charlotte’s memory with. Turning back to the barn, Wilbur meets three spiders who decide to stay. They all became friends and life goes on in that ‘extraordinary’ town.