Perhaps one of the cutest children's films ever made, this tale of the young piglet named Babe who decides his calling in life is to be a sheepdog is also a rousing comedy appropriately filled with a variety of subtle messages, from self empowerment to the importance of treating others as equals, even though they may be, ah, sheep. Produced by the Australian company Kennedy Miller (oddly enough, the same company which produced the hyper-violent Mad Max
series) and directed by newcomer Chris Noonan, Babe
is one of those movies that makes you positively melt from its guileless charm (never have I heard so many otherwise rational adults succumb to the “ooohs” and “ahhhs” usually reserved for infants encountering their first kaleidescope) without making you feel like a twit. Kids, of course, don't have that sort of self-consciousness and instead will be cooing and laughing unrestrainedly. When Babe the piglet is taken from his dreary life at the automated pig farm, he ends up at the farm of kindly, taciturn Farmer Hoggett (Cromwell, in a brilliant piece of casting) and his wife (Szubanski). Here he falls in with Hoggett's sheepdogs, the bitter Rex and motherly Fly and their pups. Fly adopts the lonely innocent as her own, introducing him to the various members of the farm community, from the old matron ewe Maaa, to Ferdinand the duck, while Rex lays down the rules, those being essentially an updating of the Orwellian notion that all animals are equal, but some are more equal than others. Eventually, Babe gets the notion to join Rex and Fly in their duties as sheep herders, and, when he proves to be more adept at the job than they are, Farmer Hoggett takes notice and enrolls the piglet in the local sheepdog trials. Working with 90% live action animals and 10% animatronics courtesy of Jim Henson's Creature Shop, Babe
looks and flows wonderfully. Especially hilarious is a sort of Greek chorus of singing field mice that pops up from time to time, eliciting more chuckles than any of the other members of the menagerie combined. This has been a good year for children's movies, and Babe
is no exception. It's a clever, witty, touching piece of work that, coincidentally enough, is also a decidedly excellent date movie. Really.