As someone who studies movies, I figured I need to discuss them. So last night, I went into my basement and found my VHS copy of Babe. I watched this a lot as a kid but only for the talking animals and not much else. It wasn’t until I started my movie a day resolution that I started looking at lists. I found that Babe was a nomination for the AFI Top 100 and was one of the 1001 movies you must see before you die. With that in mind, I figured I should take another look at it.
I am impressed with how this movie has kept it’s charm over the years. The dialogue is still fresh, the story can take place in any year, the characters develop over time, it’s the live-action talking animal movie done right.
Sure, the animatronics can be singled out in some scenes but they’re believable. I actually prefer the use of animatronics over a CGI recreation of a talking animal in a live-action movie. With CGI, my mind already knows it’s not there in real life and automatically rationalizes their existence as absent in the movie world. With animatronics, I know that it exists in the movie world because the animatronic occupies the same space as the actors.
The only piece of technology that dates the movie at this writing is the fax machine. It’s shown briefly and used to submit the form for the sheepdog competition. If Babe was remade today, Farmer Hoggett would probably use e-mail but most likely in the same understated, perfunctory manner. Other than that, this movie could easily take place today.
The cinematography is beautiful. Granted, I saw this on a VHS but the editing allows the countryside to be a supporting character. The length of the shots also lets the viewer observe all the elements in the scene.
However, I do find the transitions from chapter to chapter strange. Every time the scene ends with an iris out, I think that the chapter is finished and the next one will begin in a few seconds. But then it starts another scene before cutting to black and then the chapter title is revealed. The iris out transition is commonly associated with the end of a scene. Sure, it can be used as a comedic point like having characters open the iris and break the fourth wall or, like in the beginning of Babe, used as a tracking shot as it follows the Hoggetts when they are in the fair. However, after it’s intended use, it closes the scene and the screen would be black, meaning that a new chapter will start soon. But with the scenes coming after the false ending provided by the iris out, it goes against the process.
As a kid, I didn’t think much of Babe. As a film student, I see that this does stand the test of time and why it was considered as a nominee for the AFI Top 100.
1001 MYMSBYD selection
400 Nominations for AFI Top 100 selection for 1997 and 2007