(1995) dir. Chris Noonan
Babe, the pig.
Babe is a great childrens’ film from 1995, a rare thing, really, if you get down to it.
Back in 1995, those heady days before I had any children, I still had enough of an affinity for children’s films to seek them out, at least on video or DVD, if not to see them in the cinema. In fact, our cat, Bob, developed an affinity for Babe, the little stuffed pig that I’d picked up at McDonald’s at the time. He used to carry Babe around with him and sleep with it, like a little Teddy. And we had seen the film and enjoyed it back then.
Looking for films for the kids, I selected Babe when other Peanuts gang features besides the ones we’d already seen were not available on DVD. It had been a back pocket selection for a while, but I hadn’t gone to it.
Sadly, Felix was feeling quite under the weather and only watched the beginning and end of the film, but Clara was enthused throughout which is hardly surprising. As Chris put it, “Pigs and sheepdog puppies, how could you go wrong?” And of course they talk.
The film is adapted from a book, an English book, but the film is Australian, though the world in which the story takes place is an amalgram of many places, which I think if further elaborated on by the film’s sequel, Babe: Pig in the City (1998), which didn’t receive the same success that the original did, though it had a minor cult status and was Gene Siskel’s favorite for Best Picture the year he died of a brain tumor.
An orphaned pig is brought to a sheep farm and raised by a sheepdog, among other talking animals, and eventually develops a knack for herding sheep. Unlike the dogs, who master the sheep with discipline and aggression, Babe masters them through friendlienss and good nature.
What’s not to like?
James Cromwell as Arthur Hoggett offers an apt and charming performance, something between a normal children’s film and Jean-Pierre Jeunet fim (like Delicatessen (1991) or The City of Lost Children (1995). And his wife is a perfect oddity of charm and backwardness.
The film has themes of anti-animal cruelty and perhaps even what some might read as a “Vegetarian agenda”, but mostly it’s a charming and fun film, a film for all ages, which transcends time and place and generation, and manages to achieve the rare and hard-to-grasp: a children’s film classic (of sorts).
Though the duck from the film has been clearly pilfered in the meantime by Aflac.