Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Why "Babe" isn't just for kids and piggies

"Babe" is a lot darker and more complex of a movie than I remembered from watching it as a kid. This is the opening narration:
"This is a tale about an unprejudiced heart, and how it changed our valley forever. There was a time not so long ago when pigs were afforded no respect, except by other pigs; they lived their whole lives in a cruel and sunless world. In those days pigs believed that the sooner they grew large and fat, the sooner they'd be taken into Pig Paradise, a place so wonderful that no pig had ever thought to come back."
That's pretty heavy stuff for a "kid's movie."

Towards the end of the movie, Babe also falls into a deep, practically-suicidal depression when confronted with his own mortality, and after learning the grisly fate of his ancestors and his piggy family. Luckily, he could be brought back from the brink by a lullaby and a jig danced by James Cromwell (clip below).

Farmer Hoggett's dancing and singing revive Babe from his depression.

The film "Babe" has themes of race and prejudice, vegetarianism/animal cruelty, child loss and adoption (Fly's puppies are given away, breaking her heart, and Babe becomes a substitute child), capital punishment and wrongful conviction (Babe nearly gets executed with a shotgun after rescuing the sheep from wild dogs), murder (Maaa gets murdered by the pack of dogs and dies onscreen with her throat slashed), depression, and the social consequences for non-conformity/breaking convention. Can you think of another movie that flirts with as many dark and controversial topics as "Babe," and can do it with such a light touch? It's a pretty amazing feat, actually.

Also, I never realized that Hugo Weaving lent his voice to the alpha sheepdog "Rex," years before he was in The Matrix, or The Lord of the Rings.

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