I think I don't want to know anybody who doesn't like it.
A stunningly beautiful allegory has slipped into the multiplexes to do battle with the blockbusters. No contest, it's "Babe" all the way. This story about a pig who thinks he's a sheep dog is wise, witty, and wonderfully sophisticated. You can imagine who made it: the Australians.
And it can't have been easy. The farm of Mr. and Mrs. Arthur Hoggett is inhabited incidentally by Mr. and Mrs. Hoggett and primarily by a barnyard of perfectly sensible creatures who keep life on track. We become fast friends with two very wise sheep dogs, who consider the sheep they herd to be "stupid," and an anorexic duck, who has chosen that disease to avoid being served up on the Christmas platter. He also crows like a rooster in order to become indispensable. And then there's Babe.
After Mr. Hoggett ( James Cromwell) wins the gentle pig at the county fair, he takes the shy little fellow home, where he is befriended by Fly, the sheep dog who becomes his surrogate mom and eventually his chief of staff. Babe's transformation from self-effacing victim to the shepherd who leads with kindness is both a metaphor and a lesson for mortal men. A simple journey becomes a lesson in how to do the impossible.
Mr. Hoggett's understanding of Babe's leadership abilities grows slowly but very surely, as it must in the face of the ridicule of his peers. He learns by observing, in the manner of animals, and then bestows his trust on Babe. The animals and humans, you see, have become each other.
Magda Szubanski is transcendent as Mrs. Hoggett, the universal wife who takes care of everything in her domain: life inside the house. She cooks and cans and cleans and responds with appropriate banality to anything outside her front door. When her husband puts his faith in the pig, Mrs. Hoggett comes unglued in the manner of wives whose pride system is under a frontal attack that promises permanent humiliation. She is howlingly funny as the human animal who does everything by rote, while her wiser peers engage the real world outside in the barn.
We are watching live animals, with a touch of animation here, a little mechanical there, a touch of reality over there--all so seamlessly woven that we are barely aware of technique. The human voice-overs for Babe, Fly, Ferdinand, Rex, Maa, and Old Ewe are no less than sublimely perfect. As we listen, we realize, "of course, that's the way animals talk."
The scenes, like chapters in a book, are introduced by three inspired mice and a fine narration by Roscoe Lee Browne. This is such a good story that, by the final frames, we are in a state of high surprise. Director Chris Noonan has taken George Miller's script of Dick King-Smith's book and coaxed tears and laughter without sentimentality. This is an elegant, wise, subtle movie. I think I don't want to know anybody who doesn't like it.
Film Critic : JOAN ELLIS
Word Count : 500
Studio : Universal
Rating : G
Running Time: 1h34m
Copyright (c) Illusion
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