Babe: Pig in the City (1998)
Directed by George Miller
Cast: Magda Szubanski, Mary Stein, James Cromwell, Mickey Rooney. Voices: E.G. Daily, Glenne Headley, Danny Mann, Miriam Flynn.
1998 97 minutes
Rated: (a PG would have been more appropriate, with an emphasis on destruction and death).
Reviewed by Dustin Putman, November 27, 1998.
The original "Babe," came out of left field in 1995, surprising everybody with its charming story and original animal characters, and eventually led to being nominated for several Academy Awards, including Best Picture. I suspect, "Babe: Pig in the City," the first sequel to that picture, will have no such luck.
Starting off where the first film ended, Babe (voice by E.G. Daily), an intelligent, caring pig, and Farmer Hoggett (James Cromwell) return home after winning the Sheepdog contest. After Farmer Hoggett gets into an accident and is bed-ridden, and the farm becomes in danger of foreclosure, Hoggett's wife (Magda Szubanski) decides to take Babe to a faraway fair in hopes of winning the prize money. On their way there, however, she is suspected of being a drug smuggler at the airport, and finds herself and Babe stranded in a large, fantasy-like city, where looking out the window of their hotel, you can see the Eiffel Tower, the Statue of Liberty, the Hollywood sign, etc.
"Babe: Pig in the City," is in the style of "Babe," with three little mice introducing the different sections of the film with chapter names, and with the same storybook narrator. But, for some reason, director George Miller decided to evade this film with a preoccupation of sadness, death, and destruction. Its G-rating is a joke because of its darkness, but that is not really my problem with the film, since all of the best family pictures, like 1939's "The Wizard of Oz," and 1971's "Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory," have a wicked side. My objection is that it does not merily deal with these elements, but it dwells in it. Although there is comedy, most of it sinks under its own weight because of its somberness.
One of the most innovative ideas of, "Babe: Pig in the City," is that the city is not a certain place, but a mixture of every city in the world. Because of this, it was a huge letdown that the film did not venture out into the different places, but was set almost entirely in a hotel. For a film that cost $80-million to make, I think the makers got jipped, although the animals, with their mouths moving when they talked, was more seamless and real-looking than the first film.
"Babe: Pig in the City," is mostly a joyless sequel to the joyful original. James Cromwell obviously was just cashing a paycheck, since he only had three scenes and about three lines. Magda Szubanski was sweet as Wife Hoggett, but too often was the butt of the jokes. And I liked Mary Stein as the hotel manager and secret animal lover. The climax was nicely done and exciting, for the most part, and I liked the chimpanzee characters, but it simply felt like a missed opportunity to explore the unusual, but visually gorgeous city. The film is more action-oriented, rather than filled with the warmth of its predecessor. With all of the dark going-ons in "Babe: Pig in the City," at the end, it felt like Babe wasn't so innocent anymore.
©1998 by Dustin Putman