Monday, January 29, 2024

'90s Kids Movie Club: BABE

 by Adam Riske

You might say I’m a pig guy.

I love pigs. I think they’re adorable. When I was a kid, I used to go to the pet store at the mall to visit a potbellied piglet they had at the front of the store. I’d go to the pet store, walk up to the piglet’s cage and snort at it. It always snorted back. I wanted a piglet as a pet badly. I knew it was impossible (living in the suburbs) but sometimes you want the impossible.

As a pig guy, 1995 was an important summer at the movies. On May 12, 1995, a movie was released called Gordy about a talking pig (he even wore sunglasses on the poster!) who set out to the big city to save his kidnapped family. I wanted to see Gordy so much and asked my family to take me to see it in theaters. They took me to see Crimson Tide instead which at the time felt like a betrayal but now I see as the right decision. I ended up see Gordy on video months later and it wasn’t very good. But this article isn’t about Gordy.
A couple of weeks later I picked Casper as my birthday movie and before that Universal Pictures release there was a trailer for a different Universal Pictures kids’ film – Babe. It was pre-internet days for me, so I didn’t know of the existence of a SECOND talking pig movie until I saw the Babe trailer just killing it with a near-capacity Casper crowd. It had jokes, politeness, amazing special effects, and crooning mice. I needed it. I couldn’t wait for its release later that summer. I ended up seeing the movie with a group of friends on August 9, 1995 (a date I remember because one of my friends’ mom drove us home from the theater but needed to pull over when news broke that Jerry Garcia had died). I liked Babe on that initial viewing, but it took me years to wrap my head around it. I was expecting a fun kids movie and what I got was an instant classic that justifiably earned a Best Picture Oscar nomination.

For a movie I love, I don’t revisit Babe as often as I should but in recent months, I’ve felt like I needed to revisit it as much as I wanted to revisit it. The reason is I often name Babe as one of my favorite movie characters, but I was forgetting why. Even though I’m not familiar with the film backwards and forwards like most of my favorite movies, I remembered how much Babe the Pig got to me in my heart and soul. The reason is because he’s a character who never loses his kind & polite nature no matter what the world throws at him. Babe is like Rocky. He takes some hits, he’s down more than once but he gets back up and fights back with his heart.

I was struck on this viewing how dark the movie Babe is despite its sunny disposition. The film deals with depression, interspecies classism, ridicule, and death. Babe doesn’t have it easy, and the most beautiful aspect of the film is the reveal that Babe has a kindred spirit in Farmer Hoggett (James Cromwell). Both Babe and Farmer Hoggett are mocked for bucking the status quo and entering a pig in a competition for sheepdogs but they believe in one another and face the world together. I love that the movie posits the opinion that who you are is what’s important and not what you are. It’s a message that’s been subject to many works but rarely as good as in Babe. I got misty on this recent viewing when Babe, who is despondent after learning that most of the purpose of a pig is to be food for humans, is nursed back to health by the farmer and soothed by the farmer singing him a song. That’s sweet unto itself (especially if you pay attention to the lyrics) but what really got me was that Farmer Hoggett gets up and does a dance to entertain the pig and bring him cheer. He didn’t have to do that, but he was compelled because all that mattered to the farmer in that moment was Babe’s spirit and well-being. That’s friendship right there. You know you have a good friend if when they see you low, they’ll sit in it with you and pull out all the stops to get you to smile even if just to ease your pain for a moment.
I’d like to go on and say more about how much the movie Babe means to me, but this is a rare case where I’m struggling to capture in words how much this movie gets to me. I think we all have movies like that. They’re almost more special when we can’t express it to others but instead keep it to ourselves because we didn’t even know we had the buttons the movie is pushing.

1 comment:

  1. Perfect, magical movie. The scene where Hogget sings and dances for Babe means more to me now, too. I understand better how he's not just helping Babe; Babe is helping him. A long time ago I had a boyfriend choose that song when I asked him to sing something for me. It was adorable. I would never have thought of that song. But, he was a farmer.