“This is a tale about an unprejudiced heart, and how it changed our valley forever…”
Not many kids’ movies make it to the Best Picture category, but those that do are a real treat. Around the early-mid ‘90s was this rush of talking animal movies to appeal to kids and keep their parents slightly sane with live action. Babe rises above all of those with a heartwarming story that compels adults and kids. Best of all, it doesn’t focus on the cute furry faces the entire time.
This is one of the few live action kids’ films with excellent cinematography, lighting and art direction. The Hoggett family house is like it came out of a story book, but it’s not shoved in your face like Howard does with Whoville. The whole setting is a reflection of Farmer Hoggett, quiet, quaint, old fashioned and good natured.
The average shot for a talking animal film is simply a close up of an animal’s face or just following said animal as it does something cute. There’s just enough of that in Babe to keep kids squealing, but because there is a great setting with much more at stake than utter cuteness, shots are planned with purpose and can even take an artful tone.
It is cute. So cute. It’s about a little pig! There are puppies, ducks, sheep, chickens and a whole barn yard full of talking animals. The creatures kids will squeal about most are the singing mice. They provide a little introduction to the film’s chapters with their squeaky voices.
There are people along with the animals, they’re dependence on each other is done well here. James Cromwell plays Farmer Hoggett, a good hard working, quiet man who has just enough crazy in him to teach a pig to be a sheepherder. This is my favorite role of Cromwell’s (a close second is as Prince Phillip in The Queen). Cromwell’s crowning moment (possibly the reason he was nominated for best supporting actor) is when he sings and dances for the sick little pig. More than the animals are cute and heartwarming.
So how did they get those animals to move their mouths perfectly? My guess was peanut butter and patience. With a mix of puppets, edited footage of the animals and mid-nineties CGI, Babe won the visual effects award, mostly for making the talking animals look completely real. Have you seen talking animal movies from the past few years? Their mouths move unnaturally, not like a dog’s or whatever, but like a human’s. Even that dog in the baked beans commercial is overdone. Today’s CGI artists need to take a step back and remember how it was done so well with less technology.
I don’t care if you’re two or ninety-two, this is a great movie for anyone. Babe is cute without losing purpose (I’m looking at you Air Buddies). The sad thing is, I don’t believe this film is being preserved well enough. All that crap from Disney is always flying out of “The Vault” and infecting kids with stupidity, while Babe sits buried in the bargain bin like a joke. There are strong, heartwarming themes here that Disney doesn’t know how to touch (unless Pixar is in charge). Dignity doesn’t step aside to grab a kid’s attention and language isn’t dumbed-down. Every character is eloquent and has some sort of intelligence. And there’s no need to burst into song every fifteen minutes, Babe can hold a child’s attention without it. With that, I’ll leave you with a little treat that makes it hard to turn the dvd off before the credits are over: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sWxkv3fPsag&feature=related