Based on Dick King-Smith's novel "The Sheep-Pig", Babe was such a big hit back in 1995 that it even earned itself a Best Picture Oscar nomination and a Golden Globe. Not bad for a film about a talking pig becoming a sheepdog.
On paper, Babe sounds like just another straight-to-video kids' movie but a unique storybook look, some nifty visual effects and tons of charm elevated it to well above average. Indeed, there's something irresistible about this tale of a pig who is bought by farmer Arthur Hoggett (James Cromwell) and finds a new, unlikely purpose. The film definitely has its silly kid-friendly moments but also a surprisingly serious tone at times, never sugar-coating farm life too much or devolving into farce. One second you're following duck-turned-rooster Ferdinand join Babe on a quest to destroy an alarm clock (don't ask), the next you're mourning the death of a sheep as Babe is almost executed for a crime he didn't commit. It's this kind of balance between light-hearted fantasy and cruel reality that sets the film apart from other, less daring children's movies.
There's something refreshing about a family-friendly film that tries to give perspective rather than talk down to its younger audience. By showing that, while farmers are good people who do important work, there's a reality for the animals that's not quite as rose-tinted. Without preaching a pro-vegetarian message too heavily, Babe uses a familiar trope (talking animals) to show that life isn't easy for everyone, especially animals. But the film also illustrates a more uplifting point that although going against the natural way of things can seem impossible, sometimes it can be liberating and even save your life. Babe is definitely cute with its adorable cast of animal characters (including a mouse choir), but it's also smart and is an altogether beautifully told story. The visual effects haven't dated all that well but it's unlikely that younger viewers will really notice or care.
This is certainly one of the better kids' movies from the 90's and, even if looking back it's a tad overrated, it's still told with so much charm that kids and adults alike can still enjoy its pleasant visuals, fun characters and even its brutally honest, yet positive message.
That'll do, pig.