“That’ll do, pig. That’ll do.”
Well, there’s a lot of sad stuff going on in the world, so I figured it was time to watch a talking pig movie. Babe is probably the best talking pig movie to come out of 1995, a contested year for the genre, and it’s a heavy contender for best talking pig movie ever. The screenplay was written by George Miller, director of the Mad Max saga. After seeing Mad Max: Fury Road last year, I really wouldn’t have expected the same guy to venture into the heated market of talking pig movies, but he does so nonetheless, astounding film-goers around the world and setting the new standard for talking pig movies. Babe is a touching tale about a cute little pig that herds sheep and, like most pigs, doesn’t want to become bacon.
Going into the viewing, I was a bit skeptical about Babe’s claim to greatness, but I was wrong. The movie is truly fantastic. There’s definitely a target to the family market, with fun little interludes that break the story into chapters like a kid’s book. The first time the animals started talking, I rolled my eyes and figured there was no way I would get used to this. The special effects are phenomenal, but I just couldn’t get behind the animals talking in the same world that humans talked. After about ten minutes, though, I got over it and ended up really enjoying the style. It’s clear that so much care went into every shot, and the movie is visually beautiful in a humble sort of way. Babe himself, voiced by Christine Cavanaugh, has this touching little voice that you can’t help but fall in love with. This may be a “kid’s movie”, but I was still very impressed by the craftsmanship of it all, and I ended up embracing all these elements for a really fun experience by the end.
I think what really makes Babe shine is its commitment to style. While the humans talk in the same world as the animals, it works because the humans have this exaggerated fairy tale presence. Farmer Hoggett is a simple, gentle man who cares for all the animals in a patriarchal way. His wife, Esme, is so over the top and wacky that she doesn’t seem like a real person in a way that complements the style wonderfully. The animals feel more complex than the humans, which adds to the overarching exploration of how humans treat the animals they depend upon. There are lots of great visual jokes but also touching moments between the farm animals, and everything is heightened in a fun way, leaving you smiling constantly. You can’t help but root for Babe finding his way in this zany world.
This movie was probably included on the 1001 List for its charming special effects and overall quality as a film, but there’s also the profound impact this movie had on audiences. I really expected more of a focus on the meat production industry based on how many people claim they turned to vegetarianism after seeing Babe. While I wasn’t too persuaded in such a way, I think the movie had such an impact on people for its complex portrayal of animals. While the farmer in the film isn’t portrayed negatively, there’s still this uncomfortable hierarchy that pervades the film. It’s really heartbreaking when Babe finds out the fate of most farm pigs, the fate his parents and his siblings likely suffered. It’s a family movie that refuses to pull back on exploring this side of the story. While things turn out alright for Babe in the end, the film seems to suggest that most pigs aren’t so lucky. It’s a powerful commentary that’s also subtle enough for the film to pass as a fun family flick.
At first, I figured I would complain about the style of the movie and say that it just wasn’t for me, but that’s really not true. I ended up enjoying the style a lot, and this is a movie I wish I had seen at an even younger age so I could have enjoyed it sooner. I won’t say Babe is going to be a favorite movie of mine; the subject matter doesn’t interest me enough for me to want to watch it again, but I’ll say there isn’t much to complain about. It’s a beautiful movie with a lot of care behind every moment. There’s a heartwarming script, lovely special effects, and a magical fairy tale quality that keeps the movie fun and even thought-provoking at times. Watching Babe was certainly 90 minutes well spent, and it’s a movie that inspires me to avoid prejudgments about what I watch in the future.
Films Left to Watch: 948