Charlotte's Web, first published in 1952, was E.B. White's second book for children. Unaffected and gently humorous, the story became an instant classic and a mainstay of "best books" lists ever since. An animated musical version came and went in the 1980s, but the buzz surrounding the first live-action film, opening Dec. 15, indicates it's a keeper.
The cast list practically throbs with big names: Julia Roberts, Oprah Winfrey, Robert Redford, etc., lending their voices to various creatures of the barnyard. But the voice of the main character, a winsome pig named Wilbur, will be unfamiliar to most movie-goers. It belongs to a rising film-industry player who has acted opposite Tom Cruise, Sandra Bullock, and Kevin Bacon. He has also written and directed a film-festival contender, formed his own band, and written his own songs. He describes himself as "a very strong Christian." And he is not yet 11 years old.
Dominic Scott Kay lives in Malibu with his parents, Scott (a drummer with the Commodores) and Cindy (a homeschooling mom). "I love homeschooling," Dominic says. Does he like to read? "I love to read"-and Charlotte's Web, he adds cannily, is one of his favorite books. It makes a great movie: "It grabs you by the heart. I love those type of movies, and Charlotte's Web has so much feeling and thought put into it . . . it makes you think."
Dominic's favorite part comes near the end, when Wilbur understands that his best friend Charlotte (a spider) is going to die, after expending some of her last energies to save his life. "Why did you do all this for me?" he asks her. "I don't deserve it. I've never done anything for you." The comparison with the ultimate self-sacrificing Savior is imperfect, but hard to miss.
As a Christian, what does Dominic see as his biggest temptation in the movie industry? "Nothing," he says emphatically, stating that he will pass up-and already has passed up-offers incompatible with his faith. But he's also made lots of friends in Hollywood. If his faith matures along with his talent, he could be a positive influence on movie-making.