Fantasy elements

talking animals

  1. Babe . 1995
  2. Babe: Pig in the City . 199?




[One Man and His Pig]

Babe is taken from a pig farm to become the prize in a 'guess the weight' competition at a local fair. Farmer Hoggett [James Cromwell] guesses correctly and takes Babe home, where Mrs Hoggett gleefully starts measuring up the piglet for the Christmas Dinner roasting pan. All the farm animals can talk to each other, from the dignified old horse right down to the trio of shrill mice providing a background chorus. And the sheep are charmed by Babe, who isn't at all like the nasty 'wolves', and so agree to be 'herded' if asked politely. The farmer notices that Babe has a way with his sheep, and begins to wonder about the sheepdog trials.

We've all been brought up on a diet of anthropomorphised animals -- speaking cartoons and puppets all the time getting more 'realistic' -- so our suspension of disbelief is trained to be more than willing. And the brilliant special effects here do nothing to break that spell. Clever manipulations make the animals' mouths lip-synch perfectly, and it is difficult to spot where reality stops and animatronics starts. In fact, the only animal that looks fake is the cat -- it is real, but it's one of those over-bred flat-faced ugly monsters.

[Babe and Fly]

But this film is more than just its special effects. It has great 'characterisation' of the various animals: as well as Babe we have Ferdinand the duck, the spoiled Cat, Fly and Rex the hard-working sheepdogs, and Maa the sheep. It has a solid plot line running through it (standard Disneyesque fayre of 'young naive animal makes good in the end', but without the heavy dollops of saccharine) and brilliant little touches of whimsey and surreality all the way through.

So this is a great fantasy film, and it shows that the technology is getting good enough for someone to have a real shot at Narnia. (But I do worry sometimes about this anthropomorphisation meme that is solidly implanted in our culture that makes children, and some adults even, think of animals as human.)

Rating: 2.5

[ unmissable | great stuff | worth watching | mind candy | waste of time | unfinishable ]

reviewed 27 December 1998


Babe: Pig in the City


Babe is now famous. But disaster strikes the farm, and Mrs Hoggett and Babe travel to regain their fortunes at a show. But disaster strikes again, and yet again, and so Babe is left to fend alone in The City [Babe and friends] (a glorious conglomeration: Venice abuts China Town, and spot the Statue of Liberty, and the Golden Gate Bridge, and the Eiffel Tower in the distance!)

The glorious surreality of the original remains (including the mouse chorus), but this is a darker, more grotesque, fantasy -- more Beetlejuice than Babe I, really -- and anyone sitting down expecting more of the same original endearing quality is in for a shock. But if you take it on its own merits, it's well worth watching. The various "streetwise" animal characters, and the set piece chases, are great. And Babe saves the day again, by being sweet, innocent, and courageous!

Rating: 3

[ unmissable | great stuff | worth watching | mind candy | waste of time | unfinishable ]

reviewed 26 December 2002