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BABE: PIG IN THE CITY

SYNOPSIS:
This story begins where the first one left off, after Babe won the sheep dog trials. In his enthusiasm to remain at the side of his boss Farmer Hoggett (James Cromwell) Babe causes an accident that puts Hoggett in traction, unable to keep the farm going, bringing down a threat of foreclosure. Mrs Hoggett’s (Magda Szubanski) only hope to save the farm is to accept an offer for Babe to demonstrate his sheep herding skills at an upcoming state fair, for a healthy fee. They set off but an incident at the city airport delays them; they miss the connection to their destination and eventually find a motel to put them up. But that’s when the adventure really begins.

"While technically brilliant with much that echoes the original, Babe: Pig in the City falls short of delivering a heart, bordering on being a freak show, albeit a very entertaining one. The formula of an enchanted fairy tale whose talking pig hero overcomes the odds is still there, although this time, out of its natural environment and placed in the company of dressed up chimpanzees, orang-outangs, cats and dogs, credibility has been doused with curiosity. Replicating the style and production design of the first, the look of this new film is glorious - the effects, stunts, animatronics and use of animals dazzling. But I was not spellbound this time; the film feels fragmented and the lack of a central human character (James Cromwell grounded the original Babe so beautifully) is sorely missed. But there is still much to recommend Babe: Pig in the City. Some of its concepts and ideas are greatly innovative – like the feline catawauling choir master using its tail as baton. Needless to say, the scene stealing chimps, the adorable cats, dogs with cleverly matched voices, are adorable and provide great cinema. The few dark, disturbing inferences could have been avoided – the pitt bull terrier had his head underwater a tad too long for my liking. Magda Szubanski does a terrific job, within the restrictions of her caricature character. The ballroom scene with its heart stopping slapstick works beautifully, with a rousing score and inventive use of music by the talented Nigel Westlake."
Louise Keller

"Forget what those doomsayers have been saying, this Babe is a stunner of a film, a visual feast of colour, stylised décor and the extraordinary imagination of George Miller. OK, so the film is darker than the original, but if one were to carefully scrutinise the first film, it, too, had its dark moments. Pig in the City, though, is even more audacious, and like Babe, dares to be different. The film explores a variety of complex themes, and perhaps in so doing, has regrettably frightened away American audiences. Perhaps we might prove to be more sophisticated. This Babe is about heroism, prejudice and cowardice. In many ways, this is a far more human film than most of the competition, and the human element, with only few exceptions, represent barbarism in ourselves. On a cinematic level, Pig in the City can only be described as stunning, a wildly imaginative work, from the extraordinary and surreal art direction of Roger Ford to the evocative cinematography of Andrew Lesnie. The film looks quite remarkable, presenting a lopsided view of the world from a unique perspective. In addition, Miller and his team have created this animal kingdom so perfectly and with such care, that one never knows where the real animals begin, and the computers take ove. Miller, along with co-screenwriters Judy Morris and Mark Lamprell, have scripted a piece which has moments of wry humour, coupled with an emotive truthfulness that manages to shy away from undue sentimentality. With a wonderful cast of actors providing their voice talents to this cinematic menagerie, and enhanced by Miller's faultlessly fluid craftsmanship, Pig in the City is hypnotic screen entertainment, a truly bold and sumptuous affair that far surpasses the original. Some might be tempted to say to Dr Miller: 'That'll do, George, that'll do?' But not THIS little piggy."
Paul Fischer

"There is no doubt that this is a squeal of a sequel, admirable for its creativity in forging new ground on which those trotters can prance; a whole new crowd of animal friends and a brand new physical (and psychological) setting: the city. However, I would have liked to see the airport scenes treated in the same fairyland style as the city precincts, which are superbly created in a style that manages to embrace fantasy and three dimensional reality. The all too familiar reality of the airport architecture clashes with this; in some other scenes away from the motel where all the action takes place, come closer to matching the design style, but even they stand apart, and all this tends to fracture the film’s façade, fading the magic. But for the so called darkness of some aspects, I can only assume that the American critics who complained on this score have never seen Bambi, whose mother is shot dead in one of the saddest and most heart wrenching scenes on film. ‘Scary’ and ‘sad’ are necessary for ‘safe’ and ‘happy’ to have impact. The groundbreaking animatronics provide eye-popping scenes of animals behaving and speaking like humans, and while much of this is highly effective, it does tend to shift the film into the novelty zone. Less warm and engaging than the first Babe, this little piggy will nevertheless go to market and get quite fat."
Andrew L. Urban

"This little piggy went to market; this little piggy stayed home; this little piggy's a very different animal from its predecessor. Director George Miller has moved away from the folksy cuteness of Babe, and opted for a different, but fractured, vision. For more than half its length, Babe: Pig in the City presents a dark view of society in decay. The film comes as close as it can within it's self - and externally - imposed confines to making some pretty hard points about inequality, homelessness and poverty. Indeed, that animals convey this morality play is reminiscent of Orwell's Animal Farm (made into an animated film by Joy Batchelor and John Halas). However, in stark contrast, the latter part of the film is pure slapstick (a la The Three Stooges) leading up to the inevitable happy ending. This disjunction means the film fails to deliver as a cohesive whole - it's neither a strong social statement; nor a light children's film. Younger children may have difficulty coming to terms with its darker aspects. However, at the screening I attended, those in the 8 -12 years age group responded enthusiastically. Technically, the film is a triumph. The animal effects and production design are first rate. Film buffs should keep an eye out for Miller's allusions to other films; including King Kong and Lawrence Johnston's Eternity. Babe: Pig in the City is an interesting and very different follow-up to Babe. But don't go in expecting to see a remake of the original."
David Edwards

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CRITICAL COUNT
Favourable: 1
Unfavourable: 0
Mixed: 3

Read Andrew L. Urban's interview with
CHRIS GODFREY, the visual effects supervisor

Read Paul Fischer's interview with
MICKEY ROONEY

BABE: PIG IN THE CITY (G)
(Australia)

CAST: James Cromwell, Magda Szubanski, Mickey Rooney, Mary Stein, Matt Parkinson; voices: Elizabeth Daily (Babe), Eddie Barth, Bill Capisci, Glenn Headley, Danny Mann, David Warner, Steven Wright

DIRECTOR: George Miller

PRODUCER: George Miller, Bill Miller, Doug Mitchell

SCRIPT: Mark Lamprell, George Miller, Judy Morris, from novel by Dick King-Smith

CINEMATOGRAPHER: Andrew Lesnie ACS

EDITOR: Jay Friedkin, Margaret Sixel

MUSIC: Nigel Westlake (That’ll Do, by Randy Newman, sung by Peter Gabriel)

PRODUCTION DESIGN: Roger Ford

RUNNING TIME: 89 minutes

AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: UIP

AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: December 10, 1998

VIDEO RELEASE: July 1, 1999 (Rental)
November 3, 1999
RRP: $24.95

VIDEO DISTRIBUTOR: Universal







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