The Birthday Series – Babe (1995)
I’m reviewing a film that was released on or around August 2nd, counting back until 1978. Here is 1995.
They don’t really make live action children’s films that often anymore. Since ‘Toy Story’ was released in 1995, the balance has shifted almost entirely in the direction of animation. That’s a mighty shame when it means
we kids are missing out on new, wonderful movies like ‘Babe’.
As a piglet, Babe (Chistine Cavanagh) watches as his mother is taken away to ‘Pig Paradise’. Avoiding a similar fate, he is selected (as the runt) to be the prize in a ‘Guess the Weight’ contest at the local fair. Farmer Arthur Hoggett (James Cromwell) guesses the pigs weight correctly, and Babe is taken to his farm, where he will grow fat and plump and end up on the dinner table. But Babe soon ingratiates himself with many of the locals, finding a surrogate mother in a Border Collie named Fly (Miriam Margolyes) and befriending Maa (Miriam Flynn), an elder sheep, and Ferdinand (Danny Mann), a duck who is attempting to position himself as the farms Rooster in order raise his lowly status and avoid a Christmas dinner swansong.
Much to the befuddlement of Arthurs wife, Esmé (Magda Szubanski), Arthur begins to treat Babe like one of his sheepdogs. Babe, trying an entirely different tact than Rex (Hugo Weaving), the surly, hard of hearing Border Collie, he charms the sheep with his politeness and good nature. The results are spectacular. So spectacular that Arthur enters into the local annual sheepdog trial, with Babe as his sheepdog. Can Babe save the farmer from humiliation and win the contest?
Quite simply, ‘Babe’ is utterly charming. Despite it’s simple narrative, it does what few children’s films are willing to do, and it touches on subjects such as death right from the start. It’s a subtly dark tale at times, which gives it greater depth and separates it from the usual pandering children’s film. The film also has wonderful themes about compassion, heart and staying true to yourself. Babe is a moral compass for many of the other characters, and his courage and willingness to stand up for others eventually wins over everyone, even Rex.
‘Babe’ is a bit disarming in the way it sneakily involves you. I consider myself to be a bit of a cynic when it comes to “heartwarming” films, but it didn’t take long for the film to have me cheering on Babe, and booing his enemies, such as that sneaky, lying, hateful cat, Duchess. Not literally cheering and booing of course, but the film had me smiling all the way through. And the film is very witty, and it’s characters are very funny. Ferdinand the Duck is classically neurotic, and a trio of singing mice which serenade the audience and introduce each chapters title card as they appear are very amusing.
All the voice actors are terrific, and Cromwell and Szubanski are excellent as well. Cromwell was nominated for a Best Supporting Actor Academy Award, which he lost to Kevin Spacey’s Keyser Söze (was that a supporting role?). It might have been a bit much to nominate Cromwell, but in a year where others such as Brad Pitt (who was also nominated for ’12 Monkeys’), Kathleen Quinlan (for ‘Apollo 13’), and Mira Sorvino won for ‘Mighty Aphrodite’, it doesn’t come as much of a surprise.
Based on the novel ‘The Sheep Pig’ by Dick King-Smith, and brilliantly adapted by George Miller and director Chris Noonan, ‘Babe’ is also technically brilliant. When the animals talk, their mouths move as well. Using a combination of computer generated effects and animatronics, courtesy of Jim Hensons Creature Shop, it’s flawless. For the first five or ten minutes at the beginning of the film I found myself entranced by the animals mouths, just watching the way they moved in perfect synch with the dialogue, but as the film won me over I stopped noticing the effects and got involved in the story.
Extraordinary patience must have gone into the making of this film. Some of the shots that Miller and Noonan have achieved are amazing. I know dogs can be trained to do almost anything, but can pigs or ducks be trained in the same way? ‘Babe’ was nominated for seven Academy Awards in all, winning only one, beating ‘Apollo 13’ (the only other nominee) for Bests Visual Effects. But in a year when ‘Braveheart’ beat out ‘Apollo 13’, ‘Sense and Sensibility’, ‘Il Postino’ (which I haven’t seen admittedly), and ‘Babe’ for Best Picture, it’s not too far of a stretch to say that this film should’ve ended up with the top prize. It may have not been the best film of 1995 (‘Heat’ received a grand total of ZERO nominations), but in my opinion, it’s the best film of that group.
If (like me) you haven’t seen ‘Babe’ in a long while, or you haven’t seen it at all, I highly recommend it. You may be surprised at how entertaining and affecting it is.
This has been a “delightful” birthday party. LA LA LAAAH!!!
For Droids a jolly good fellow!
2008 – The Midnight Meat Train
2004 – The Manchurian Candidate
Yeah this one works. I never did see the follow up. Forgot that Mr Anderson there was the collie. Interesting.
I watched the sequel as well. It’s not quite as charming and delightful, but it’s still good and has a few very funny parts.
From the Oscar Winning director of Happy Feet!!! Babe 2 rules.
Yeah it is good. This one is slightly better for me though. Babe 2 gets a solid 3 Changs.
I remember that Gene Siskel LOVED ‘Pig in the City’.
Ebert loved it too. He gave the sequel 4 stars, and only gave this one 3 stars. Topsy turvy!
i LOVE babe. someday i will have a pet piggy of my very own – and yes, pigs are super smart and house trainable! (i can’t speak for ducks…)
Thank you for reminding me of this. I just may go and buy it for my niece for her birthday.
No probs. Thank my mum for giving me the ol’ heave ho when she did because if I wasn’t doing this series on that date I doubt I’d have watched this film for a long long time. I’d forgotten about it too.
Never seen any of the Babe movies, they always seemed to have a sort of nightmarish quality.
But, one day, I will do a double feature of Pig in the City and a Tail of Two Kitties. Even though I find the prospect a little bit frightening.
Tail of two kitties!?!?!? Don’t you ever mention Garfield 2 in the same sentence as Babe!!! Seriously though, the first one isn’t nightmarish at all. The second one is quite a bit darker, but still “delightful”.
Blitz, I’m not particularly fond of children and even less so of children’s movies but I loved Babe. It’s a kid’s movie for adults. It’s smart. It’s sweet. It has a sense of humor.
Maa Ram Ewe!!!
Was this movie a veiled inference meant to show
CHER in a porcine light?
Cause I distinctly remember SONNY singing…
“I got you BABE!”
“That’ll do pig”
He gave me the fucking ticket anyway.
Alright_I’m gonna say this once.
George Miller is a Fucking Australian Genius.
Why the cuss words?
Because he came at the game from the opposite angle.
I fucking love this movie-and it makes me cry every time.
Why is this important?
Because Mad Max 2 is so Kick Ass.
Why is that important?
Because Miller is a fucking genius.
Why is he a genius?
Because he took a page from the Speilberg playbook: take a successful property, but realize your vision applies to other genres!
I’m gonna say this once:
Robert Rodriguez is the *only* modern filmmaker who is doing this shit.
Returning to Babe.
Babe 2 had all kinds of negative trade writeups that said it was too dark and would destroy your mind.
This takes nothing away from the original motion picture.
It’s a fucking masterpiece-and if I had kids, I’d make them watch it when they were 4 years old.
When they were Juniors in State University.
I fucking love this movie.
Great review, Droid. Strangely, I prefer the second one to this one, although I think they are both great.
In fact, I think the second movie might be, for some odd reason, one of my favorite movies. I know it makes no sense, but it’s just such an odd thing–the second one– and this is a pleasant, and thoughtful surprise, but it’s not as strange as that other one. I find them both ‘delightful’ for different reasons.
When I saw the first mini-trailers for Babe 2, I got the horrible feeling of ‘cash-in’ on a classic little film. When I saw it, though, I think you could argue it’s even more creative and endearing than the original. It doesn’t feel ostensibly like a children’s film.
Mickey Rooney’s scary ass clown who has a heartattack in front of a bunch of orphans.
‘A murderous shaodw has laid long across my heart.’
‘My humans put me in a bag and tossed me into the river’
The entire bit where Fleanick dies and is called back from the afterlife by Babe.
The raiding of the animal safehouse.
The clown suit and Esmay Hogget at the charity ball at the end.
It feels more like a Terry Gilliam children’s film, like the spiritual successor of Time Bandits or something.
Either way, they were top of the line children’s films and both far better than Happy Feet.
And Gordy. Uggh.
No, never seen Babe or sequel.
Talking farm animals just don’t feel right to me. I like pigs just fine – met one in a pub once, it ate all my crisps, the greedy fat bastard. But a talking pig, on a huge screen? Unnerving.
Funnily enough I watched this tonight lol.
It is still as charming and clever as ever. And the sequel is one of the few “as good as if not better” sequels out there.
James Cromwell looking benevolent at Babe at the end and saying…..
“That’ll do, pig. That’ll do”
Welling up, we was, Precious 🙂