This Australian family comedy – based on British farmer turned teacher and author Dick King-Smith’s book The Sheep-Pig – came out of nowhere to enchant millions around the world, converting many small children to vegetarianism in the process.
The “babe” of the title is an orphaned piglet adopted by a family of Border collies who learns how to handle sheep under the patient training of soft-hearted Farmer Hoggett (James Cromwell) – while the farmer’s fat, rosy wife (Magda Szubanski) unsentimentally eyes the piggy as a Christmas dinner of roast pork.
The mixture of live-action and animatronics brings the animals magically to life (the film won an Oscar for visual effects) and their voices are adeptly handled by Christine Cavanaugh (of Rugrats fame), Hugo Weaving and Miriam Margolyes.
It’s a delight from start to finish that will captivate children and melt the heart of even the grumpiest adult.
While Babe has hints of darkness, the (unnecessary) 1998 sequel, Babe: Pig In The City, is bathed in it. More than once, an animal is taken to the edge of death and brought back at the last minute. Perhaps the fact it was directed by George Miller is why it feels far more like Mad Max than Babe!
Farmer Arthur Hoggett
Roscoe Lee Browne