Bunyan and Babe

Movie review by
Renee Schonfeld, Common Sense Media
Bunyan and Babe Movie Poster Image
Legendary logger fights today's developers; some jeopardy.
  • PG
  • 2017
  • 84 minutes

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The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Educational Value

Recalls tale of folk hero Paul Bunyan and Babe the Blue Ox, American legends. Bunyan, a mythological lumberjack, is noted for super-human strength. Statues of him and Babe dot the landscape of several rural areas in the U.S.

Positive Messages

"You don't have to be big to do big things." Seemingly powerless children have a strong hand in saving a town from greedy developers. It's enriching to forgo technological entertainment to rediscover nature and the satisfaction of hard work and community. 

Positive Role Models & Representations

The 12-year-old hero, indifferent to the world around him, hooked on video games, and having a not-too-pleasant older brother, learns the value of nature, cooperation, passion for a good cause, and making a difference in the world. Some stereotypes: hard-of-hearing elderly man, greedy/soulless businessmen, ditzy female secretary (who proves to have hidden resources).

Violence & Scariness

Children in danger in several scenes: chased and nearly trapped by villains, menaced by a careening car and a raging fire. The heroic ox is chased by a bull, poisoned, shot by a tranquilizing dart, caged, and chained; no injuries. Under a carnival tent an entire community is hypnotized and unable to move as fire threatens. 

Sexy Stuff

Insults and some potty humor: "nincompoop," "nerdface," "crazy blue-hair," "witless," "ass"; pooping and puking are mentioned.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Bunyan and Babe is an animated feature film that finds a modern-day young brother and sister connecting with the American folkloric lumberjack Paul Bunyan and Babe, his blue ox. The two partnerships team up to help save a Minnesota town that is being taken over by an evil land developer (a comic but stereotyped businessman villain). The kids and the ox face assorted perils (chases, careening cars, falls, captures, a tranquilizing dart gun, fire), but there are no injuries or deaths. A few insults are delivered ("nincompoop," "nerdface," "ass") and expect some mild potty language ("poop," "puke"). It's OK for kids who are comfortable with real vs. pretend violence.

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What's the story?

When BUNYAN AND BABE opens, Travis Barclay (voiced by Johnny Orlando) isn't very happy about spending two weeks with his little sister Whitney (Lola Wayne Villa) at his grandparents' farm. Do they have to go every year? No cell phone? No video games? Rediscovering nature??? But neither Travis nor Whitney could have foreseen the adventure upon which they were about to embark. Delbert, Minnesota, the small town in which Travis' grandparents live, is about to be demolished by the Blandfords, an unscrupulous land developer and his evil hypnotist twin (both played with gusto by Kelsey Grammer). Though the citizens have refused to sell to Blandford, a more devious plan is underfoot -- that is, until Travis makes an unexpected journey beneath the surface of the earth where the "real" Paul Bunyan (John Goodman) and his blue ox, Babe (Jeff Foxworthy), have been living for more than a century. Before you can say, "Look deep into my eyes," Travis, as well as his precocious sister and newest giant BFFs, are on the case. So just when it seems all of Delbert will fall into the Blandsfords' evil hands, the foursome work together to save the day.

Is it any good?

With conventional animation, a simple story, and a few intriguing characters, this modern twist on an old folk-hero story is pleasant enough but far from memorable. Made several years before its release, Bunyan and Babe will successfully introduce kids to an American legend. Some voice performances are noteworthy. Kelsey Grammer has a fine time with two stellar villains. Dorien Davies shares a wonderfully comic interpretation of a ditzy secretary with more to her than meets the eye. There's enough cartoon violence to make it iffy for kids who aren't able to separate real and pretend violence. Otherwise, the movie is fine for most kids.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the legend of Paul Bunyan and the Blue Ox. Look up the story. How do characters in Bunyan and Babe carry on the traditions of the legendary ones? Why is Paul Bunyan such a positive figure in American folklore?

  • Why do you think so many cartoon villains are greedy businessmen? Do movies like this one influence your attitude about the world of business and finance? Can you think of some people in the business world who make important contributions to our society?

  • What is meant by the statement: "You don't have to be big to do big things"? Think of some incidents in your life when you were able to accomplish something unexpected. Write about one big thing you did.

Movie details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love animated movies

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