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Movie Review:
Babe

  • MPAA Rating: G
  • Running Time: 89 minutes
  • Recommended for ages 7+

Quick Take:This little piggy will win over your heart.

Babe: A Little Pig Goes a Long Way

Babe has a storybook quality to it, from the opening credits and spoken narration to the sweet successful ending. There is simplicity to the farm life, where sheep are still sheared by hand, Farmer Hoggett still uses a horse-drawn cart, and Mrs. Hoggett still makes prize-winning jams and a picture-perfect snow scene atop a Christmas cake. There is a delight, too, in seeing the "secret" barnyard world, where animals can talk to one another, but humans only ever hear squeals, clucks, and barks.

That said, this G-rated film probably still isn't a good pick for the 7-and-under crowd, because farm life comes with some harsh realities. When Mrs. Hoggett wants duck l'orange for Christmas dinner, Farmer Hoggett has to kill a duck on Christmas Eve (a friend of Ferdinand's). When a wild dog takes down Maa, she dies before Babe's eyes. And when the jealous cat spells out a pig's "purpose," Babe learns that his family has become someone's dinner. For older children, however, there is a charm and a warmth to the story that balances these darker moments.

Kids Will Like:
Top of the list is the sure-to-be-rewatched escapade of Babe trying to steal the "electric rooster" (alarm clock) from the Hoggetts' bedside. The high-pitched mouse troupe, which announces each "chapter" and occasionally breaks into song, begs to be imitated; and kids will be off the couch dancing along with Farmer Hoggett as he tries to cheer up Babe.

Parents Will Like:
Babe makes a strong case for not judging others and not taking someone else's word for how others should be treated. Kindness is valued and "the way things are" is challenged in a positive way. Beyond the physical comedy, there is a subtler humor as the quiet but determined Farmer Hoggett works around the chatty Mrs. Hoggett.

Heads Up:
Be prepared for a vegetarian strike after this film because you'll probably have to explain where the meat and poultry on your table comes from (especially after Ferdinand's frantic rant that Christmas dinner equals carnage).

Also, precisely because this is a movie about learning to respect and understand others, there is a fair amount of bullying and name-calling early on. Sheep are referred to as "stupid" and "morons" and are told to "Shut up!" Even Babe, in his first -- and last -- attempt to be nasty, calls the sheep "big buttheads." (They nearly laugh him off the field.)

Own It?
Yes, for a sweet classic of a tale.

More Info on Babe

The Story:
"This is a tale of an unprejudiced heart and how it changed our valley forever." So begins the story of Babe, the pig who wants to be a sheepdog. After Farmer Hoggett guesses Babe's weight correctly at a local fair, Babe comes to a farm where dogs are the masters, and pigs, ducks, and sheep are considered "stupid." As the adopted son of sheepdogs Fly and Rex, Babe changes those notions one misstep at a time. He befriends Ferdinand, the duck who wants to be a rooster, and Maa, the ewe who explains that all the sheep want is a little respect from the "wolves" (the sheep word for the sheepdogs). Farmer Hoggett notices something is a-hoof and trains Babe to herd sheep in his own gentle way. At the climactic sheepdog championship, Babe wins the respect -- and hearts -- of all.

DVD Special Features:
The 2003 Special Edition release includes commentary from the writer/producer, a behind-the-scenes look at the making of the movie, and the games Farmyard Friends, Babe's Challenge, and Sheep Ma-a-ath.

Trivia & Fun:
Dick King-Smith wrote Babe: the Gallant Pig, the book that is the basis for the movie, and many other animal-based books. Check out his other pig-tales: Pigs Might Fly, Lady Lollipop, and a fact-filled pigc-ture book, All Pigs Are Beautiful.

Trivia Note: The sheepdog trial arena is named Kingsmith Showgrounds in honor of the author. Look for the sign in the movie.

Want to get a close-up look at pigs, sheep, and sheepdogs? Watch for festivals or fairs that feature farm animals (often raised by 4-H kids) or border collie demonstrations, where sheepdogs show just how hard it is to herd.

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