James Cromwell received his first Oscar nomination for portraying Farmer Arthur Hoggett in Babe.
James Cromwell portrays the stoic Farmer Hoggett who is a man of few words but clearly is the man in charge of his farm. Cromwell whole performance really is the sort of presence he is able to convey with Hoggett since his performance really is nearly silent for the most part. The farmer Hoggett despite just being a simple farmer is harder to bring to life than one might think, as there could have been many pitfalls to his character but Cromwell never seems to make a single mistake with his performance that finds just the right tone throughout the film.
Farmer Hoggett frankly could have just been a dull character, after all commonly in stories of this nature the humans are the least interesting characters, but Cromwell never allows himself to be dull despite the fact that his role is so often one of few words. Cromwell has just the perfect sort of manner in his performance that suggests Famer Hoggett's long history of being a farmer, as well as being very much an old timey fellow in his own personal style. Cromwell absolutely nails this aspect of Hoggett and his performance almost feels like just an extension of the old farm itself in a way.
The most important aspect with Cromwell's performance though is actually his relationship with the Pig. In most of the early moments of the film Cromwell in very small but effective reactions suggests his slow movement to growing to become very found of the pig. Cromwell is really brilliant in just his tiniest of glances, and smiles at the mention or at the sight of the pig that are simply wonderful. He also slowly builds this change from almost indifference to fondness to really love which comes out fully in a scene where Hoggett completely loses his stoicism.
His scene where he completely breaks out into song is simply splendid. Cromwell reaches this point believably actually, and does not force this action of Hoggett instead it actually feels like a natural transition brought by Cromwell. It is a terrific moment where Cromwell brings such genuine joy to the song and dance that make the moment wonderful. The only moment I might like more in the performance than that though is his final "That'll do Pig". Cromwell gives such a warmth in his performance that is really something special.
James Cromwell simply gives a charming entertaining performance with Farmer Hoggett that does so much with what seems like a relatively simple role. Hoggett could have easily been boring, or overly sweet frankly. Cromwell's ability to make the character's change through the film, and relationship with his pig honestly heart warming without a single forced moment it actually quite an achievement. This is really a one of a kind performance by Cromwell, in a one of a kind film.