Yesterday I took a look at two Mill Creek Blu-ray releases that were new to the format, Stop! Or My Mom Will Shoot and Gold Diggers: The Secret of Bear Mountain. While The Babe and Gorillas in the Mist aren’t new to Blu-ray, they are still a part of the same ’80s/’90s retro VHS art line from Mill Creek and are at least new to me. Both are biographical films, one is a comedic but more loosely based on reality title and the other is a well-made and more accurate story, but one that isn’t nearly as entertaining either.
While I love them, biographical films usually have one major flaw that hurts them in the historical accuracy department. This flaw is that they have a tendency to sugar coat the subject’s flaws or even flat out ignore some of bad or at least less glorious parts of their lives (in some cases even glossing over their destructive decisions that negatively impacted the world). The Babe is not one of those films, if anything I would say that the movie is overly negative to the point where it makes a generally good guy with flaws look like a borderline monster at times. The Babe is not a movie to watch if you want an honest picture of Babe Ruth’s life, but if you want a reasonably entertaining comedic but overly dramatized version of his story it’s a fun enough watch.
One of the best and most famous baseball players of all-time, Babe Ruth’s early life was a bit rough. He was given to an orphanage early on in his life, rarely saw his parents, and he was picked on for being big for his size. At the orphanage however, he found something he was very good at in the sport of baseball (specifically hitting home runs). He was found by a Baltimore Orioles scout and quickly caught on in the majors with the Boston Red Sox, where he quickly became famous for his long balls. The Babe follows Ruth’s early life and entire playing career, though not always in the most accurate way. There were a few things I found hard to believe that I actually found out were true thanks to Wikipedia (mostly his very unsportsmanlike behavior on the field at times) but there are still definitely some discrepancies and I believe Ruth was depicted a bit more negatively than he should have been.
The Babe was not beloved by critics or audiences when it came out (or even now), it’s pretty much a mediocre film on both Rotten Tomatoes and IMDB. My guess is that critics didn’t like the liberties it took with Ruth’s life or the overly negative portrayal, though I also saw some people criticizing John Goodman both in terms of not looking like Ruth and his performance in general (even he was disappointed with his own performance). Maybe I’m just crazy, but I don’t think Goodman looks that off outside of him being much bigger than Ruth actually was (I never knew he had a pretty average build). He’s not the spitting image of Ruth or anything but Goodman wasn’t a terrible choice for the part (especially since it feels like this movie was leaning heavily into the urban myth parts of Ruth’s career and a “large” Babe makes some since if you’re going for that). I also think Goodman did a better job than even he thinks. His performance certainly wasn’t award-worthy or anything, but I thought he was funny and good enough in his role. I’m not the biggest fan of biographical films taking liberties when it comes to their subject’s life but I would say this one is meant to be more of a comedic biopic in the first place. I doubt he was as slow mentally, as bad with money, or as big of an asshole to his wife as implied in this film, etc. The Babe is a bit too overly negative about Ruth, he wasn’t perfect but he was likely a far better man than this film makes him out to be.
However, The Babe is more than entertaining enough to make up for the shortcomings in the biopic area. Despite being almost two hours long, the film is very fast-paced and actually made me laugh out loud on several occasions (pretty rare for a biographical film). It might be a bit unfocused at times as the movie is constantly moving at a breakneck speed from one scene to the next. While this may annoy some viewers, there’s also very little wasted time and it keeps the entertainment coming. There’s a lot of comedy and the film is just plain fun. While being more realistic would have also hurt the entertainment factor a bit, I do think I would have given The Babe a 3.5/5 if it were just a bit more believable. As is, the entertainment factor helps make up for the inaccuracy of the story and The Babe still earns a 3/5.
Gorillas in the Mist
While The Babe took some liberties with Babe Ruth’s life, Gorillas in the Mist seems to be a nearly 100% accurate account of Dian Fossey’s time studying and helping preserve mountain gorillas in Africa. It doesn’t cover anything else, just that part in great detail. While The Babe was entertaining but not particularly historically accurate, Gorillas in the Mist is the complete opposite. It’s a great film to watch if you’re interested in Dian Fossey’s life (or at least the gorilla portion that she’s known for), is very well-made, and features some phenomenal acting from Sigourney Weaver but it also drags a bit from time to time. Gorillas in the Mist is undoubtedly a better-made film than The Babe, but it ultimately wound up getting the exact same rating from me due to not being as entertaining.
While almost all biopics cover most, if not the entire life of their subject, Gorillas in the Mist is different, skipping the early portions of Fossey’s life completely and focusing almost 100% on her work with mountain gorillas (mostly covering the first few years of this project but eventually moving forward to her last few years in Africa). In 1966, Fossey convinced famed anthropologist Louis Leakey to choose her for a job studying gorillas in Africa. While she had a rough start to life in Africa (she even got kicked out of the Congo and was forced to relocate to Rwanda), she fell in love with the creatures and was able to discover things about them that nobody had ever learned before (due to her ability to earn their trust and get closer to them than ever before). Fossey would eventually become renowned for her work thanks to a series of National Geographic articles but she would also make some enemies due to her attempts to stop poaching in the area. Outside of a brief foray into her relationship with a married National Geographic photographer, Gorillas in the Mist is all about the gorillas. It doesn’t even cover her friendship with the other “Trimates” (most notably Jane Goodall, who she was good friends with) or anything like that. It’s laser focused on this one thing throughout most of the 2+ hour run time.
Gorillas in the Mist was definitely the best-received of the four titles in this set of Mill Creek retro VHS art Blu-ray releases, sporting a 7.0 average on IMDB and solid to good reviews from critics. There’s no doubt this is the best made film of this batch, but it was also the one I was least interested in as I knew it wasn’t going to be the most exciting movie to watch. Still, I’ll watch anything with a 7.0 or better on IMDB (generally anything above that is good, a title in the high 5’s to low 6’s is flawed but watchable, and anything below that is either bad or so bad it’s good) and I do generally like biographical dramas, so I of course gave it a chance. The results were pretty much as I expected, Gorillas in the Mist is a very good movie but not as entertaining or fun of one as the other three Mill Creek releases I recently watched. In fact, at times it’s downright depressing and even rage-inducing.
However, Gorillas in the Mist is also a good movie (just not a particularly exciting one). The story appears to be extremely accurate based on a glance at Fossey’s Wikipedia page, or at least in terms of her actions. However, it does seem like the film may have glossed over some of her faults, only really addressing them towards the end of the movie and relatively briefly. Yes, Fossey was a good person who did a lot of great things but she was also apparently an alcoholic who didn’t always treat people very well. I don’t mind an overly rosy biographical drama but it does need to be pointed out. Regardless, Sigourney Weaver does a great job in the role and John Omirah Miluwi is good as her tracker Sembagare. On the technical side, Gorillas in the Mist did a great job of combining actual footage of gorillas and scenes with people in gorilla costumes (I figured they used them but everything looks so real that I had to look it up online to make sure they were even utilized). The scenes with the gorillas are often majestic and very cool to scene, the only problem is that there’s so many of them that they also tend to drag towards the end of the proceedings. Ultimately, Gorillas in the Mist is a good and very well-made movie about an interesting person. It just falls a bit flat in the entertainment category, which longtime readers all know is the main thing I’m looking for in a movie. 3/5
Video Quality and Conclusion
Both of these releases appear to be more or less the same as their prior Universal Studios Blu-ray releases in terms of video quality. Neither of those Universal Studios releases are particularly hard to find on Blu-ray, they are around the same price as these Mill Creek offerings, and they also offer a few minor bonus features. The only real thing these releases have to offer over those Universal ones is their admittedly cool VHS-themed slipcovers (the Gorillas in the Mist one in particular is much better looking than the awful gold-bordered Universal release). Once the Universal versions go out of print, these are perfectly fine releases to own though featuring decent (though far from spectacular) video quality.
Both The Babe and Gorillas in the Mist are good but not great biographical films that achieve that status in completely opposite ways. I wouldn’t recommend The Babe for historical purposes but it is a fun ride that often made me laugh out loud. On the other hand, Gorillas in the Mist is a well-made film that does a better job in the historical accuracy department, but isn’t as entertaining. Ultimately, they are both worthy of a 3/5, just for different reasons.
The Babe and Gorillas in the Mist were released on Blu-ray on March 9, 2021.
We would like to thank Mill Creek Entertainment for the review copies of The Babe and Gorillas in the Mist used for this review. Other than receiving the review copy we at Geeky Hobbies received no other compensation. Receiving the review copy had no impact on the content of this review or the final score.