"Baa-ram-ewe, baa-ram-ewe. To your breed, your fleece, your clan be true. Sheep be true. Baa-ram-ewe."

Fun Australian comedy, released in 1995. It was directed by Chris Noonan, with a screenplay by Noonan and George Miller, based on a novel called "The Sheep Pig" by Dick King-Smith. It starred James Cromwell as Farmer Hoggett, Magda Szubanski as Mrs. Hoggett, and 48 Yorkshire pigs (and an animatronic double) as Babe the Gallant Pig. Voice work was provided by Christine Cavanaugh as Babe, Miriam Margolyes as Fly the sheepdog, Danny Mann as Ferdinand the duck, Hugo Weaving as Rex the sheepdog (Yes, Agent Smith is the sheepdog. This should be good for at least as many jokes as there were about Elrond. "I hate sheep, the stink of them. I feel saturated by it."), Miriam Flynn as Maa the ewe, Evelyn Krape as the old ewe, Russi Taylor as Dutchess the cat, and Roscoe Lee Browne as the narrator.

It was nominated for several Academy Awards, including Best Picture, Best Director, Best Supporting Actor (for Cromwell), Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Film Editing (for Marcus D'Arcy and Jay Friedkin), and Best Art Direction and Set Decoration (for Roger Ford and Kerrie Brown). It won the Oscar for Best Visual Effects (for Scott E. Anderson, Charles Gibson, Neal Scanlan, and John Cox).

General plot: Farmer Hoggett wins Babe, a runt piglet, at a county fair, planning on fattening him up for dinner. But as the pig gets to know his way around the farm and makes friends with a paranoid duck, a maternal sheepdog and her proud, jealous mate, Babe begins to display an uncommon talent for sheepherding, thanks to his habit of speaking pleasantly and politely to the sheep. Hoggett decides to enter Babe in a sheepdog contest, but various barriers get in the way. Can Babe (and the other animals) come up with a decent showing in the contest, or will Farmer Hoggett and his little pig be humiliated?

This is a really beautiful movie. The cinematography by Andrew Lesnie is gorgeous (his job was made easier by the fact that the film was made in unbelievably scenic New South Wales, Australia). And "Babe" is often screamingly funny (particularly when Ferdinand is on one of his rants or when Mrs. Hoggett is featured in any extended sequence), but it has depths that you wouldn't really expect from a talking-animal movie. The relationship between the sheepdogs, Fly and Rex, is realistic and touching, and Rex's reactions to his encroaching deafness are also realistic, though scary.

But the movie belongs to Babe and Farmer Hoggett. I've known grown men who've cried like babies when Babe sobs, "I want my mom!" or when Hoggett cares for Babe when he's sick and frightened. And I've sat in rooms with drunken thugs who fidgeted nervously throughout the scenes at the sheepdog trials, shivered silently (along with the awed contest spectators) when Babe starts leading the sheep around, and wept with joy at that final "click". I've known people who pooh-pooh this movie. But I've never known anyone who pooh-poohed this movie after watching it.

"Babe" was followed, in 1998, by a far less successful sequel called "Babe: Pig in the City".

Narrator: "And though every single human in the stands or in the commentary boxes was at a complete loss for words, the man who in his life had uttered fewer words than any of them knew exactly what to say."
Farmer Hoggett: "That'll do, pig. That'll do."

Research from the Internet Movie Database (www.imdb.com)

Babe (?), n. [Cf. Ir. bab, baban, W. baban, maban.]

1.

An infant; a young child of either sex; a baby.

2.

A doll for children.

Spenser.

 

© Webster 1913.

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