Babe is a gentle, family flick that touches the heart
I watched Gordy and wondered why motion picture companies can't make good family films anymore. When I heard about Babe, I thought that I was in for another stupid "talking pig" movie. But that's only when I heard about it. When I actually saw the previews, I was mildly excited. The pig's lips actually moved, along with all the other animals. The only problem was that Gordy left such a bad taste in my mouth. I was hoping that the producers of Babe had a good story, along with the special effects that I had seen.
What I never expected, was a premise of a horrible movie turned into one of the best pictures of the year. In fact, it's my bet for Best Picture at the Academy Awards ® . Braveheart bored me, except for the battle scenes. Apollo 13 was good but it wasn't that thrilling and the movie was predictable. Of course, as of yet, I haven't seen Sense and Sensibility or Il Postino, so I won't pre-judge them. As of what I have seen, Babe is my choice.
The movie opens with a sad scene where Babe (voiced by Christine Cavanaugh) is born and the mother is taken away, to be killed. Babe is the only "babe" that cares that his mother is being taken away. Soon, some men take Babe to be sold for a Christmas dinner. Farmer Hoggett (James Cromwell) guesses the pig's weight and wins Babe. He takes it home, where the story is told from Babe's point of view. Babe meets several animals while still mourning for his mother. He meets Fly (Miriam Margolyes), a sheepdog who becomes Babe's adopted mother. However, he does encounter some mean animals. Rex (Hugo Weaving) is resentful of Babe at first, but likens up to him at the end. Cat (Russie Taylor) is the cat with a bad attitude.
Babe does meet some friendly animals, such as Ferdinand (Danny Mann) who wants to be a rooster, and Maa (Miriam Flynn), an old, wise ewe. The story is mostly a "fish-out-of-water" story, but this is a fish that belongs out of water. After Babe finds out what the dogs do out in the sheep field, he decides he wants to be a sheepdog. After Hoggett sees sees Babe herding some chickens and lining them up by their color, he decides to let Babe try herding sheep. Fly gives him some tips, which actually turn for the worse, but the sheep tell him to ask them. Hoggett is shocked when he sees Babe herding them out in a line. It's also a wonderfully cute moment.
I don't want to ruin the surprises, because there are many, so I won't say anything more. I'll just say that the movie ends at the National Sheepdog Trials. The very last line is wonderfully subtle because it is also the very first thing he ever said to Babe. Well, the first thing Babe heard from him. In fact, he hears a lot of lines that teach him lessons that he can use in his life... and what we, the viewers, could use. And that's what is so charming about the movie. It teaches morals while entertains us. That's the sign of a good movie.
Of course, the actors are wonderful, which always adds to a movie. James Cromwell, who was nominated for Best Supporting Actor, but I'm not sure what he was supporting, portrays his character with the subtlety that this character requires. A lot of characters out there seem to require subtlety, but this character is one of the best ones. Magda Szubanski is funny as the wife of Hoggett. She is hilarious, especially when she is watching the National Sheepdog Trials. Christine Cavanaugh, as the voice of Babe, is actually wonderful even though she doesn't appear in the movie (she even lives in my home town in Utah). The rest of the voices are good, even the three mice who introduce the different sections of the movie and sing "Blue Moon" in an adorably cute sequence.
Babe is rated G. There is nothing offensive in the movie, except for maybe the sadness of Babe losing his mother, and Maa being killed. Little kids might not appreciate those sad moments, but the movie is mostly upbeat and doesn't condescend itself once. I think that that's the problem with the family pictures that are released now. The director and writer didn't hold back on big words that kids might not understand, which makes it just as entertaining for adults as it does for kids. This is my pick for Best Picture of 1995 at the Oscars.
**** out of ****
Reviews by Boyd Petrie