Picks and Pans Review: Babe

updated 08/14/1995 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 08/14/1995 AT 01:00 AM EDT

James Cromwell, Magda Szubanski

For the young, a wagon of cute suffices," runs a saying from the Old Country, "but the old, they demand charm by the truckload."

Perhaps that doesn't translate well. This children's fantasy, about a pig raised by border collies on a picturesque little farm, is certainly as cute as they come. The film makes clever use of computer animation and lifelike animatronic puppets to create the effect that real sheep, ducks, horses and so on are talking to each other. (The voices are supplied by a cast that includes Miriam Margolyes, the rotund society matron in The Age of Innocence, as a mama collie.)

But farm animals don't have the most expressive faces—a talking duck is not far removed from a talking umbrella—and the novelty of ewes yammering away with Clutch Cargo lips quickly pales, at least for a grownup. The barnyard standouts are those handsome dogs, who are eloquent even without words, and a trio of mice who sing "Blue Moon." The plot (the pig must struggle against stereotype to be allowed to go shepherding with the dogs) provides a worthy lesson for kids, but it plays out like George Orwell's Animal Farm as retold by Barney. Kinda weird. (G)

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