Review By JESSICA ALMY
I’d seen “Babe” years ago, at a time when I was neither a child nor a parent, so it was fun to revisit the movie with my 4-year-old daughter. What I’d forgotten, or perhaps hadn’t noticed, about the 1995 live-action flick when I’d seen it the first time was that it has a certain darkness and wry humor that you don’t often see in kids movies. In fact, the voice-over, timelessness of the sets and costumes, and the very slight edginess reminded me of the more recent TV show “Pushing Daisies,” which was geared to an adult audience.
Vegetarian parents probably already know that “Babe” deals with the issue of meat, but I was delighted to learn that the film actually makes kids grapple with why people eat some animals but not others. As the animal characters’ explanations are not very satisfactory — the cat, for example, explains that the cow is for milking, the dogs are for tending sheep, cats are for being beautiful, and ducks and pigs are for eating — viewers must answer the question for themselves. And just so the vegetarians don’t get too smug in their answer that no animal is meant for eating, the film pushes a little further, sparing Babe from becoming Christmas dinner while sacrificing a previously unseen duck instead. Watching Ferdinand the duck mourn over the loss of his friend, makes you feel just a little guilty that you felt a pang of relief when you saw duck, rather than pig, was for dinner.
This is the kind of movie that the entire family can enjoy together, and vegetarians in particular will be delighted by all the great lines in this movie. (“Pork, they call it – or bacon. They only call them pigs when they’re alive.”) Even if you’ve seen it before, the writing, the scenery, and the thematic elements make this a film worth revisiting.
Rated G. Captivating for kids as little as ages 4 and 5 with a little adult explanation.