What are some of your favorite movies from childhood? Have you watched any of them recently? If so, then you know that, sometimes, revisiting those classics you loved as a kid can be a disappointing experience. The things that interest or attract you to a film change over time; it's not unusual for those things to be lacking when you watch something again for the first time in years. That's what makes the films that actually hold up so special. In fact, on rare occasions, seeing a movie again through adult eyes reveals details that make it even more meaningful than it was to you as a child. We talk about a few famous examples on this week's Unpopular Opinion podcast ...
... where I'm joined by comic Vanessa Gritton and professional sound effects button pusher Brett Rader. I'm also talking about a few of them right now! Go figure!
#5. Babe: Pig In The City
Babe: Pig In the City
Did you see the first installment of the Babe franchise? It was an adorable movie about an upstart young pig who refuses to accept his predestined station in life in favor of ... becoming a dog? Not really -- he just wants to do all the fun things herding dogs get to do, and if it's not too much trouble, to avoid being eaten as a delicious breakfast side dish someday. And he succeeds! How cute! No wonder the film was such a huge hit at the box office, pulling in an astounding $254 million on a budget of just $30 million.
In fact, it was such a success that a sequel was greenlit almost immediately. In 1998, Babe: Pig In The City hit theaters. By most standards, it was a massive flop, with box office receipts of just $69 million, this time after blowing through a budget of $90 million. So you wouldn't surprise a lot of people if you were to say that you've never seen it. Which is a shame, because it's legitimately one of the best films of the last two decades. That's not hyperbole, either. Roger Ebert gave it four out of four stars. Gene Siskel took things a step further and called it his all-out favorite film of 1998. Keep in mind, that's the same year in which classics like Saving Private Ryan, The Truman Show, and The Big Lebowski were in theaters.
Also Enemy Of The State, Meet Joe Black, and the Psycho remake with Vince Vaughn, but who's counting?
It wasn't without its competition, is what I'm saying. It's just that good of a movie.
There are plenty of interesting political and social references that make it relevant today. And we'll get to those, but really, the main thing is that, as stated excessively in the previous paragraph, it's just a really great movie -- one that you've probably never seen. The main reason for this actually speaks to what makes it so good: Aside from the part where the cast consists primarily of adorable talking animals, this isn't really a film for kids.
Sure, the first Babe movie had it's downer moments and secret messages, like the part where Babe is sad after he realizes that his human friends want to eat him. But for the most part, it's a feel-good movie that kids will love.
Almost as much as they love the delicious taste of Babe!
The opening scene of Babe: Pig In The City, on the other hand, involves the protagonist pig nearly killing his beloved owner Arthur by dropping a bucket on his head, just like you'd expect a stupid pig to do when he goes meddling in things that don't concern him. This forces Arthur out of work, causing the family to default on the payments for their farm. When the bank comes calling, Arthur's wife Esme has no choice but to enter Babe into a sheep-herding contest in the city, in the hope that she'll earn enough cash to keep them from losing everything.
If that sounds bleak, take comfort in knowing that things get so much worse once they leave. I don't want to give too much away, because I do sincerely want you to go watch this movie immediately (after reading about the other four on the list, of course). So instead, here's a bullet point rundown of some of the darker moments and covert messages to be found in Babe: Pig In The City:
-- Overzealous TSA agents (before the TSA existed)
-- An adorable pit bull nearly drowning while dangling over the edge of a bridge by a chain
-- A pregnant chimpanzee who looks like she probably sneaks a cigarette every time the cameras are away
Babe: Pig In the City
It's okay if you're a primate.
-- Lots of poverty and exploited workers
-- Something very reminiscent of the Nazis storming the ghettos and sending Jews off to concentration camps
And so much more. All that said, I really want to make it clear that it isn't that it's neat for such a dark movie to feature talking animals and whatnot. This is just a legitimately excellent movie that not a lot of people cared about when it came out. Give it a shot sometime if you never have. Oh, and if it matters at all, Babe: Pig In The City was written and directed by George Miller, the hero who brought you the Mad Max franchise.
#4. Beavis And Butt-head Do America
Beavis and Butthead Do America
It seems unlikely that a movie like Beavis And Butt-head Do America would continue to hold any significance in relation to the events taking place in the world today, aside from giving us a reason to laugh at how far the various bands of the '90s have fallen since their salad days. That's true, provided you've missed all of the news about overzealous law enforcement officials that's been making headlines lately.
See, this movie came out in 1996, just a few short years after the infamous ATF siege on the Branch Davidian compound in Waco. While the precise facts and details of this incident are and probably always will be something people argue about, it's generally accepted that the what the government did in the name of ending the standoff was a little heavy-handed -- and by that, I mean that they may or may not have set a compound filled mostly with innocent people on fire.
There were 76 deaths in all. It was extreme, to say the very least. Was the group really enough of a threat to justify that kind of response? Maybe, but again, we'll probably never know for sure.
So in light of all that, it should come as not that huge of a surprise that one of the key storylines in Beavis And Butt-head Do America involves the pair going on the run to escape a pack of rabid ATF agents. Well, not really. In typical Beavis and Butt-head fashion, those two think they're just traveling across the country to do a chick. All of the craziness seems to happen in the periphery, while they proceed through life as they always do.
Aside from that part where Beavis eats a peyote cactus.
On the flip side of that coin is the ATF, who almost immediately peg Beavis and Butt-head as one of the biggest terrorist threats facing our pre-9/11 nation at the time, and in their own typical fashion, they overreact mightily. This most commonly comes in the form of Agent Flemming (masterfully voiced by Robert Stack) ordering cavity searches to be performed on everyone in the general vicinity if there's even somewhat of an indication that they might know something about the terrorist plot which he suspects may be unfolding.
Beavis and Butthead Do America
Isn't everything the government does a cavity search of sorts?
Excessive and ultimately unnecessary interrogation techniques performed in the name of thwarting terrorist attacks that may or may not even be real? That sounds intense. I think we can all agree that it's a good thing we don't live in Beavis and Butt-head's version of America anymore.
#3. Little Giants
Ah, Little Giants. Who didn't love this movie as a kid? Right, a lot of people. The movie didn't do much damage at the box office, and truth be told, there isn't anything all that remarkable about it -- aside from the fact that it's called Little Giants, but none of the NFL players who make cameos in it actually played for that team.
But if this movie came out today, while it would still probably be mostly written off as another example of the run-of-the-mill kind of David vs. Goliath story that we've seen in so many movies for so many years now, it might receive some attention for taking on one particular issue: sexism. And though they likely had the best of intentions, the filmmakers would almost certainly catch hell for how they handled the issue if this movie was released today.
The plot centers around two brothers, Danny and Kevin O'Shea, played by Rick Moranis and Ed O'Neill, respectively. One of them is a former Heisman Trophy winner; the other is portrayed by Rick Moranis and, as such, obviously is not.
He does look like about 15 different coaches, though.
When Danny's tomboy daughter Becky is cut during tryouts for a pee-wee football team despite being the most talented player, he comes to her defense by starting a separate team for her to play for.
So far so good, I suppose! Girls can do anything boys can do! Except as the plot unfolds, it becomes clear that, key character or not, everything Becky does is motivated by boys. Almost as soon as the team is formed, she develops a crush on the quarterback -- whom you might recognize as the kid who, in later years, famously wrote a letter to Eminem about throwing his girlfriend in the trunk of his car and drunkenly driving her off a bridge.
His parents call him by his real name, probably.
It doesn't take long after that for Becky's shithead uncle Kevin to swoop in and convince her that quarterbacks want to date girls, not teammates. She promptly quits to become a cheerleader. Sure, she eventually comes to her senses and gets back in the game, but only after her crush takes an especially hard hit in a game during the final act of the movie. Keep in mind that this happens well after the team has fallen behind by 21 points. She knows she can help, but has absolutely no interest in doing so until her boyfriend is in peril. We're talking about a game with stakes that include her father losing the business he's worked his entire life to build. All of her teammates are fellow outcasts from the same team she was cut from at the beginning of the film, which also happens to be the team they're facing. Nevertheless, the only thing that motivates her to jump in and help is the realization that the boy she has a crush on might get hurt.
But now who will encourage him???
I guess that's a sweet enough message if everyone in the cast is in their 30s or something. Not so much when you're selling that message to a bunch of impressionable tweens.
Speaking of which, up to this point, I've left out the most obvious reason this movie is not only relevant to current times, but also probably wouldn't even get made today. For all intents and purposes, this is a film designed to sell kids on the idea of playing football. That seemed perfectly innocent back in 1994, but nowadays, it's akin to selling parents on the idea that their kids being in constant danger of coming home with a concussion is no big deal.