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By Desson Howe
Washington Post Staff Writer
August 04, 1995


Chris Noonan
James Cromwell;
Magda Szubanski;
Christine Cavanaugh;
Hugo Weaving;
Miriam Margolyes;
Danny Mann
nothing offensive, except intimations of animal slaughter and minor profanity such as "buttheads

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Call me swine-phobic, but the last thing I wanted to see was a moving comedy about a pig. But after grunting my way into "Babe," I came out squealing with pleasure. A hilarious fantasy, about a plucky piglet that learns how to tend sheep, "Babe" is a barnyard charmer.

An unwitting bacon candidate at a hog farm, young Babe's fate is positively altered when he's dispatched to a county fair to be the prize in a weight-guessing raffle. Luckily, he's won by laconic, goodhearted Farmer Hoggett (James Cromwell), who isn't necessarily disposed to eating him.

At Hoggett's farm, Babe (the voice of Christine Cavanaugh) gets to know the other animal residents. There's Rex (Hugo Weaving), a belligerent, sheep-hating border collie; Rex's kinder, gentler mate Fly (Miriam Margolyes); and Ferdinand, a wisecracking duck (Danny Mann), who's trying to keep one waddle ahead of the slaughterer's knife by usurping the rooster's crowing duties.

Babe's trusting nature makes him blithely unaware that the farmer's wife (Magda Szubanski) is eyeing him for Christmas dinner. But Babe saves himself when he demonstrates to Farmer Hoggett (a wonderful, taciturn performance from Cromwell) that you don't have to be a dog to move sheep around. And if the judges at the national sheepdog competition get over their prejudices, he just might be the best darned lamb-chaser in the land.

The creatures, created by a cinematically seamless combination of real animals, animatronic creatures and puppets, are stirringly realistic. (All in all, 48 different real piglets played the part of Babe!) Co-writer/producer George ("Mad Max") Miller and director Chris Noonan have transformed what could have been a passable kiddie picture into something alert and provocative.

There's engaging vitality everywhere, whether it's Babe sneaking past a dangerous, sleeping cat while a nervous Ferdinand the duck flails and honks soundlessly on the other side of a window or the teeny-weeny (animatronic) mice who function as a rodent chorus at the beginning of each narrative "chapter." Their Alvin-and-the-Chipmunks-style cover of "Blue Moon" alone is worth the price of admission.

BABE (G) — Contains nothing offensive, except intimations of animal slaughter and minor profanity such as "buttheads."

© Copyright 1999 The Washington Post Company

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