movie review by
Gary Johnson

Babe: Pig in the City


[click on photos
for larger versions]

Web site:

Web site:

Babe: Pig in the City is a very different movie from Babe. While Babe was fanciful but relatively small and simple in scale, Babe: Pig in the City gives us huge sets and elaborate special effects. Imagine what Babe would've been like if Tim Burton (of Batman and Beetlejuice fame) had directed. The original movie's simplicity has been discarded in favor of a bigger-is-better approach.

Now Babe leaves the farm, as the title indicates, and he ventures to the city, where director George Miller provides us with a hyperactive fairy-tale atmosphere. City buildings look like gingerbread houses, all rounded and fat and heavy. The sets themselves are marvelous creations (thanks to production designer Roger Ford). However, within the huge sets and the enormous cast of characters, Babe gets lost. He's a whimsical creation that worked best within the less-is-more approach of the first movie.

Babe: Pig in the City also carries a darker tone. For example, the plot itself is initiated when Babe tries to help Farmer Hoggett, but Babe's good intentions only cause Hoggett to be crushed at the bottom of the farm's well by machinery he was lowering on a rope. You'll also see a dog nearly killed by a van and another dog nearly drowns--hanging head first into the water while his back paw is tangled in a chain. In another scene, a squad of policemen descend on a hotel that's overrun by animals. Like a squadron of stormtroopers, they throw nets over the critters and push them into cages. This is surprisingly violent material considering the sweet tone of the first movie.

In the process of telling the story, the filmmakers even lose focus on the central plot--which involves saving the farm after Farmer Hoggett is severely injured. In order to pay the creditors, Esme Hoggett (the farmer's wife) takes Babe to the city so that he can appear at a fair and they can collect an appearance fee. (Babe's fame has spread far and wide after he won the sheep dog competition.) But once complications arise and they can't get to the fair, the movie drifts without a clear direction. The solution to their troubles suddenly materializes in the movie's final reel. However, because we can't see Babe work toward solving the farm's cash problem, the solution is far too convenient and not particularly satisfying.

In addition, the movie now gives us a trio of chimps and an orangutan as lead characters, all dressed up in sneaker, pants, and suspenders, and they make the movie feel like a cheap circus act. At the preview that I attended, the children seemed to enjoy this movie (and maybe that's enough to ask). But instead of the quiet charm of the first movie, we now get noisy, hyperactive chatter and action. In short, what I loved about the first movie is largely absent in this sequel.

[rating: 1 of 4 stars]