Making the Grades
Even with its six Academy Award nominations (it won Oscar for Best effects), I am surprised how many people still have not seen this movie. It is a rare gem--a G rated movie that has as much to say for adults as it does for children. The latter audience will find the movie funny for the simple antics of the animals, while adults will see a deeper meaning about social classes that, with some explanation, they can help their children understand as well.
The story takes place on the Hoggett farm, where Farmer Hoggett (James Cromwell) wins a nice little pig at the county fair. Soon after Babe's (voiced by Christine Cavanaugh) arrival, Rex (voice of Hugo Weaving), the head dog of the farm, explains the pecking order: Useful animals like dogs, cats, and horses, are on top; while edible animals are at the bottom of the heap. Fortunately, Babe makes friends with Fly (Miriam Margolyes), the other sheep dog, giving Babe the opportunity of a lifetime as he learns how to herd sheep.
Now life on the Hoggett farm will never be the same again. But everything about the farm was a little peculiar to begin with, and that's what makes this movie so incredibly interesting. Filmed in Australia, the Hoggetts have little in the way of modern conveniences, and no desire to change. The style of the house and its interior decor has a nursery rhyme look to it, while Cromwell and Magda Szubandki playing Mrs. Hoggett, fit the landscape and mood of the rual environment perfectly. Finally, Chris Noonan's directing skills are superb, as he has constructs this movie from many subtle little scenes to create an overall delight.
Besides driving the pork market into a frenzy, Babe accomplishes a much more important task. He examines the danger of having preconceived ideas about others. The dogs say it's a known fact that sheep are stupid. The sheep say all dogs are ignorant. Ask your children if we have those same misconceptions about people based on appearance, where they are from, or their abilities. Movies like Babe can stimulate excellent family conversations that teach children important ideas they won't forget.