Sunday, June 21, 2015

Movie #312: Babe

Babe is a children's movie starring James Cromwell, Magda Szubanski, and the voices of Miriam Margoyles, Danny Mann, Christine Cavanaugh, Hugo Weaving, and Miriam Flynn.

Babe (Cavanaugh) is a little piggie born in a factory farm, but taken to a state fair to be a prize in a "guess your weight" kind of thing. Farmer Hoggett (Cromwell) correctly guesses the weight, and takes Babe home to his farm. This is a "the animals all speak animal-ese" kind of movie, a la Charlotte's Web (to which it owes much), so Babe winds up chatting with and falling in with a sheepdog named Fly (Margoyles). Her mate, Rex (Weaving) isn't so keen on animals not knowing their place, but that's easy for him to say - his place is a favored one by the farmer, getting to herd the sheep (who, in a nice bit of world-building, refer to all dogs as "wolves" and fear and hate them).

Babe goes through various misadventures involving the other animals, especially a duck called Ferdinand (Mann) who tries to be a rooster because he feels it will make him "indispensable" and therefore immune to being eaten. Babe learns to herd sheep, and the farmer enters him in a sheepdog competition, but then loses his shit when the cat (Russi Taylor) informs him that pigs, like ducks, serve one purpose on the farm: Food for the farmer.

Said farmer nurses Babe back to health, dancing and singing for him, even, and he goes on to win the sheepdogging competition! Hurrah!

It's a cute movie, and holy shit it got nominated for Best Picture, Best Director, Best Adapted Screenplay, and Best Supporting Actor WHAT THE ACTUAL HELL. In fairness, it was a weak year (Braveheart won, FYI), except in Supporting Actor...anyway. I'm amazed that Babe got that many nominations. I mean, for the time, the visual effects were amazing, and it's credited with kicking off the "CGI talking animal" movie crazy (so, like, it's not all good news), but I have a hard time seeing it as a worthy Best Picture nom, let alone Screenplay.

Specifically, there's this kind of "so it goes" attitude about animals getting eaten that never quite gels. Like, Babe is told that his mother, father, and siblings were all turned to bacon, and that upsets him, but then the farmer does a little dance, and that makes it OK? We never see Babe come to grips with what that means; he is special, but it's because he can do something that other pigs can't.

George Miller (of Max Mad and Fury Road fame) wrote the screenplay and directed the sequel, which is just the cherry on the sundae of "huh" that is Babe. Me, I kinda think it's impressive for its time, but watching it 20 years after the fact, it's just cute.

My grade: B+
Rewatch value: Low

Next up: Jennifer's Body