"Babe" Talkback (Spoilers)

Fone Bone

Matt Zimmer
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Jan 19, 2004
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Framingham, MA
Babe

Hoo boy. Little context for this review before we go any further. Which of course, me being me means it's going to be done through comparison to another film. The other big talking animal kids flick of the 1990's: The Lion King. I need to go over that a bit first and what this movie meant to me in terms of differences in themes and philosophies.

I haven't reviewed The Lion King in awhile. I tend to rewatch and rereview movies like it from time to time. What I can say is that The Lion King is a film I like less and less every time I see it. There are flaws built into the premise not due to the plot machinations or animation or characters, but due to the very warped morality and lessons the movie is trying to teach kids. I don't think The Lion King's message is remotely as damaging as the Objectivism in The Incredibles. But I feel like every moral lesson it imparts is wrong.

The Circle Of Life is bogus. It always has been. It doesn't go around, it's an up or down arrow based on where you are in the food chain. What it is was a way for Mufasa to justify eating other sentient creatures who in reality had just as much right to exist as he did. This is the problem inherent in making a talking animal movie. If the animals can understand each other and still eat each other, they're essentially murderers. You can accuse me of overthinking it. I think the Lion King producers are either underthinking it, or completely whitewashing how horrible the idea is at its essence. Maybe the reason Scar toppled Pride Rock's monarchy so easily, is because it deserved to be toppled. For all of the fascist imagery in the "Be Prepared" number, the reality is Scar's brand of fascism is simply different from Mufasa's. Mufasa's kingdom is already a totalitarian dictatorship too as long as the lions can eat whatever thinking, feeling creatures they want to without consequence. Add to the fact that Simba is an outright stupid and irresponsible character, and I don't find much about that movie to recommend thematically. What's the point of bringing back the status quo to Pride Rock as long as the status quo is as horrible as it is, with the caste systems built into the sentient animal groups that are built into them? I guess it's LESS obscene than what Scar and the hyenas have done. But only by matters of degree. It's still totally obscene.

I like and valued rewatching Babe because Babe is the talking animal film where animals characters getting eaten IS actually horrible and suggests the status quo Simply Isn't Damn Good Enough. Babe does something in the film far more dangerous and revolutionary than Scar ever did. He asks the scariest question of all: "Why?" And the other animals realize their answers aren't good enough and don't make sense.

There is only so much growth a human on the top of the food chain like Farmer Hoggett can go through, and while I doubt the end of the movie made him a vegetarian like James Cromwell is in real life, I think he's gone through something too. The whole dancing thing was technically insane. Any human who saw him doing that to comfort a sick pig would think him nuts. And yet he was right to do it. It was his most charming and heroic moment.

What I noticed most about Hoggett is that he is startlingly observant. He's aware of the animals on the farm and what they are doing. And the Pig fascinates him because he doesn't act like he's supposed to. Hoggett puts off every excuse to kill the pig because he's rooting for him, which is again insane to an outside observer. And when he learns Ma was killed by wild dogs, he is so glad to put down the gun he looks like he was crazy to pick it up to begin with.

I don't much like Hoggett's family. His wife is a dope and his grandkids are brats. But Hoggett himself is pretty sharp. He's not sharp enough to understand the animals on his farm are sentient. But he understands it better than every other human in the movie, which makes him the proper agent of change in the film.

DO things ultimately change? We'll see soon enough when I review the sequel. But I appreciate that unlike The Lion King that posits a beauty and natural order to Mufasa's horrific regime, Babe, the film, never downplays the horror and subtext of animals bred to be eaten on a farm. Fly having to give away her puppies is devastating because there is no recourse. Something that monstrous simply "Is" and a pig asking "Why?" makes him every bit the dangerous revolutionary that Scar is, except he's fighting for the side of righteousness.

And you can accuse me of overthinking kids talking animal movies. Truth is, I overthink ALL movies and TV shows. That's why I like watching them. But you'll never convince me The Lion King is a better movie than Babe. Not for a second. *****.
 
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Dr.Pepper

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I like this movie, but I didn’t really see it that much growing up. I remember my mom getting me the movie Gordy on VHS as a kid. I legit believe that bought it thinking she was buying Babe.
 

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