Not to be forgotten under the enormous shadow of #hamilfilm, we are in week 4 of the 52-Week Movie Challenge. Okay, but in all seriousness, I did sort of forget about it with all of the #hamilfilm content we’ve been putting out. I joked on this week’s pod that I will indeed watch all 52 movies for this challenge, I may just do it over 70 weeks. But that doesn’t mean that I am not stoked about this week. In all honesty, this was the challenge I was most dreading in the early going: “A film starring an animal.” I mean, that prompt doesn’t exactly conjure up images of great films right away. And let the record show that I threw all of us, myself included, a soft ball by choosing an absolute gem of a film in ‘Babe.’ I could’ve just as easily chosen an ‘Airbud’ sequel or ‘Snow Dogs,’ but I am not that cruel. I’ve got a caffeinated beverage and the background of my 8-week old son cooing and laughing at me as I sing him songs from “Hamilton,” so I am as ready as I’ll ever be. Let’s get to it.
Based on the 1983 children’s novel by Dick King-Smith titled The Sheep-Pig, ‘Babe’ tells the story of a young pig who is won by a sheep farmer during a “Guess the Weight” challenge at the local fair. Farmer Hogget’s initial plan was to roast the pig for Christmas dinner, but his fondness for Babe softens his heart and causes him to spare the pig. Under the guidance of Fly, a female border collie and matriarch of the Hogget animals, Babe learns the ropes of sheep herding (shepherding?). Using his kind demeanor to build relationships with the sheep and earn respect from both Fly and her mate, Rex, Babe is able to become one of the greatest “Sheep Dogs” in the country and earns a perfect score for Farmer Hogget at the world Sheep Dog challenge.
If you’ll indulge me, I am going to start this review with a personal note. In fact, this is my blog so I am not even sure why I am asking for your permission in the first place (MUAHAHAHA). There are two reasons why I chose ‘Babe’ for week 4. The first is that, again, it is just difficult to find a film that you could stomach in this category. The second reason, is that this movie means so much to me. I loved this movie as a child. LOVED. IT. I watched it constantly. When I was younger, I had some respiratory issues that landed me in many an uncomfortable medical situation. Finger pricks, IVs, blood work, you get the picture. Through all of that, movies were a comfort, this movie more than most. I can specifically remember being 7-years-old and in the midst of a week-long hospital stay for pneumonia. It must’ve been late because my mom was folded up in one of those terrible hospital chairs asleep but I had woken up for some reason. I would’ve probably felt completely alone at that moment if it had not been for ‘Babe.’ I suspect that is why my mom put it on before catching a quick nap in between vitals checks. I was scared and uncomfortable, but ‘Babe’ was there. And it wasn’t the first time or the last time that this movie was there for me in my time of need.
In many ways, hearing the overture and watching the opening credits roll, felt like reacquainting with an old friend. I felt guilty for not staying in touch as much as I should, but it took just a few moments to pick back up where we left off. And this time, I had my two-year-old son with me, which made the experience all the richer. To prove that I am a true OG, check out this sick dvd two-pack.
All of that said, I want to be very clear: ‘Babe’ is an incredible film. You may not remember but it was actually nominated for Best Picture at the 1995 Academy Awards. What I find amazing about that is that film was trending more cynical in the mid- to late-90s. So, for a film as wholesome and quaint as this one to capture the attention of fans and critics alike is really quite remarkable.
But when you really start to analyze the movie, it makes sense. First of all, I cannot imagine that directing a cast of animals as diverse and wide ranging as this one is an easy task. And they have these animals working OVERTIME. Not to mention, the effects they use to make the animals appear to speak holds up much better than I would’ve ever thought.
From a storytelling perspective, ‘Babe’ is the definition of “short, sweet, and to the point.” At a runtime of 92 minutes, this movie is expertly paced without losing any depth. I mean, the scene where they dig into Rex’s backstory is a perfect example of this. All in, it takes maybe 3 minutes and it deepens our understanding of Rex so much. That’s efficient!
The themes in ‘Babe,’ while familiar and not particularly groundbreaking are sharp and effective. The score is unique and memorable. The voice acting is excellent and the production design is beautifully coordinated.
If you hadn’t seen ‘Babe’ before embarking on this movie challenge, I hope you agree with me that you are better for seeing it. If there is a purer movie that’s as effective, I don’t know it. I am thankful for the movie challenge as it was nice to be reintroduced to this film. I certainly plan on making it a part of my children’s lives in hopes that it has a similar effect on them.
Kernel Score: 9.2/10
Our next challenge is “An Early Film of an Actor.” I legitimately can’t decide so I am taking Kirk’s advice and putting it to a vote. Keep an eye on PFB social media pages for more details. Thanks for reading!