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Babe: Pig in the City movie review

Babe: Pig in the City

The pig rides again, this time he visits the city and faces grown-up realities.

The fundamental difference between 1995's surprise hit Babe and its sequel, Pig in the City, is a change of tone. Whilst Babe happily indulged in occasional "serious" moments, Pig in the City often surrounds itself in gloom, and its characters are forced to attempt to emerge from it. That's quite a feat for a family film to achieve without presenting its characters as somber as their surroundings. Achieving this much is something that director George Miller (Mad Max, The Witches of Eastwick) can be proud of, at least for the most part.

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Miller adapted Babe from the novel written by Dick King-Smith (entitled The Sheep Pig), and does the same task for Pig in the City as well as replacing director Chris Noonan. He gives an unusual atmosphere to the film, which is largely to do with the setting - "The Big City." This is one unusual place, with Venice like canals and a wide range of sights to see - the Sydney opera house, the statue of liberty, the Eiffel tower and the Hollywood sign. Miller conveys that this fairy tale city is not located anywhere, so much as it is everywhere.

Pig in the City's story starts off directly after Babe's finishes. Farmer Hoggett (James Cromwell, who received an Oscar nomination for his performance in the original) and Babe (voice of E.G. Daily, replacing Christine Cavanaugh) are local celebrities for their astonishing display in the National Sheep Dog's Championship. But unfortunately Hoggett takes a bad fall down a well, thus making him unable to work. The farm soon faces financial ruin, so Mrs. Hoggett (Magda Szubanski) plans to take Babe to a state fair in search for enough money to save their home. They end up stranded in The Big City, and stay at an eerie hotel for pets.

Pig in the City is an ill-advised sequel. Babe ended on a wonderfully high note, pleasing audiences with scenes that were both artistic and entertaining. It was a rewarding tale brought to life largely from Cromwell's performance and Babe's innocence. Although the pig's innocence is still very much a part of the sequel, Cromwell is severely missed. He was the sane centre of the original; everyone acted crazy around him. This time Magda Szubanski is the lead human actor, but her cheerful comic mannerisms are exaggerated to ridiculous lengths, and she soon becomes more irritating than entertaining.

There is some truth behind the many allegations that Pig in the City is too depressing and gloomy for children. Some scenes - namely Farmer Hoggett falling down the well and Babe saving animals from gruesome deaths - are distressing to watch. Although the underlining themes of the film include friendship, determination and courage, it is only an uplifting experience on very few occasions. Pig in the City is exhausting when it should be uplifting, and annoying when it should be entertaining.

This is not to say that George Miller has not crafted some excellent moments and characters. Thelonius (voice of James Cosmo) is an old and wise orangutan who always likes to be dressed for the moment. He is easily the most intriguing character, as every one of his movements and words are emphasized by Miller, and the audience subsequently takes notice. Thelonius is one of the few animals that gives a lasting impact, and is able to burst out of his gloomy surroundings to create an intriguing demeanour of his own.

Adults will appreciate the atmosphere that Miller creates more than children will. But as a family film, a sequel, and a candidate for this holiday's box office trophy, Babe: Pig in the City simply doesn't bring home the bacon.

On the Buckmaster scale of 0 stars (bomb), to 5 stars (a masterpiece): 2 stars

Review © copyright Luke Buckmaster

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Due for Australian release Dec 10, 1998

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Just the facts:

Title: Babe: Pig in the City (1998)
Written by: George Miller, Mark Lamprell, Judy Morris based on The Sheep-Pig by Dick King-Smith
Directed by: George Miller
Produced by: George Miller, Doug Mitchell, Bill Miller
Edited by:
Director of Photography:
running time:

The Players: James Cromwell, Magda Szubanski, Mickey Rooney
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Filed: 17-Nov-1998 : Last updated: 1-Dec-1998:Last tested: 3-Jul-2014: Last compiled:<3-Jul-2014 Entire site refreshed: Dec 2008-Feb 2009 | Site URL transferred: Jan 2005 (previously www.festivale.webcentral.com.au)

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