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Overall Rating

Worth A Look: 24.64%
Average: 5.8%
Pretty Bad: 4.35%
Total Crap: 15.94%

3 reviews, 51 user ratings

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Babe: Pig in the City
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by Collin Souter

"...and if only more sequels could be this great."
5 stars

Very little exists regarding the making of “Babe: Pig in the City,” and that’s the way I prefer it. Sometimes, I find it better not to know too much about a movie, especially one that continues to amaze me with its technical prowess and jaw-dropping execution. The DVD revolution has provided many cash-deficient film scholars with an easy route to film school via the audio commentaries, behind-the-scenes documentaries and pages upon pages of production notes. Suddenly, it seems that every filmmaker wants to give away all of their secrets. Not the “Babe” crew. The makers of these two wondrous films want to keep us in suspense as well as in awe while we gape at their accomplishments with only one question on our minds: “How did they do that?”

Consider all that went into the production of “Babe: Pig in the City”: A cast of 799 animals, with only a few humans acting as supporting characters; the titular City built from scratch to accommodate the action for its four-legged cast; more special effects shots per minute than any other movie made up to that time (1998); working long hours every day and only coming away with just a few seconds of usable footage; some of the most complex chase sequences and action set-pieces ever conceived, all involving animals; working from a screenplay in which a ½ hour goes by with hardly any human characters on screen.

The movie only follows one convention, a common symptom of sequelitis whereby the characters must now inhabit and conquer a city (see also “Home Alone 2: Lost in New York” and “Crocodile Dundee in Los Angeles”), but “Babe: Pig in the City” feels miles and miles away from conventional filmmaking and storytelling. The City in question represents all cities. We see a little New York, a little Los Angeles, a little bit of Paris and quite a bit of Venice with the water canals that permeate the story’s central location. A familiar Coca-Cola logo is replaced with the word “Eternity” and some shots might even remind you of the cityscapes of “Blade Runner.”

Of course, the story begins on the farm, “a place just a little to the left of the 20th century,” our narrator tells us. The movie picks up exactly where the first “Babe” left off, with the gallant pig returning home after winning the grand prize for sheep-herding. Offers pour in to the Hoggett farm from around the globe. Arthur Hoggett (James Cromwell) just wants to retire. However, an accident caused by Babe involving a water well leaves Arthur hospitalized just as the bank demands payments…or else.

Arthur’s wife, Esme (Magda Szubanski), accepts an offer to appear with Babe for a sheep-herding demonstration in return for a “generous appearance fee” that will save the farm. Babe (this time voiced by E.G. Dailey) and Esme arrive in the city fish-out-of-water style, fall victim to airport security and a general unwillingness from every hotel to take in a woman with a pet pig. Eventually, Esme and Babe wind up at a boarding house run by a Landlady (Mary Stein) who specializes in taking in helpless animals, despite city ordinances that forbid it.

There, Babe associates with a wide range of eccentric characters and the most miraculous thing about this movie is that it treats many of the inhabitants as though Shakespeare had written them. Take the brooding orangutan, Thelonius, a stoic and intolerant character lurking within corners and shadows of the establishment and deeply committed to its show-biz owner, Fugly Floom (a speechless Mickey Rooney). Along with him are three chimpanzees: Easy, the youngest, Zootie (voiced by Glenne Headly) and Bob (Steven Wright). The first encounter between these five characters is written with such sophistication and wit that we completely forget we are watching a movie meant for kids.

Other characters come into play later on when some of the homeless animals come in from around the city to seek refuge in the boarding house, including a Pit Bull Terrier who scares the life out of Babe in a chase scene that, when you stop and think about it, is even more impressive than anything in “Matrix: Reloaded” or “Terminator 3” (I would love to have been in the room during some of the storyboard sessions). Later, when Babe helps him out, the tough mutt offers Babe his spiked collar as a sign of honor. Because of the Pit Bull’s bloodline, anybody else would have let him suffer. “We were once warriors,” he says. “A murderous shadow lies hard across my soul.”

Poetic dialogue such as that sounds beautiful when coupled with the visual splendor on display in every frame. Part Ringling Brothers showmanship, part Terry Gilliam dreamscape/nightmare and part Jean-Pierre Juenet whimsy, “Babe: Pig in the City” is clearly the work of a director who refuses to rest on his laurels. George Miller, who co-wrote and produced the original, bravely stepped into the director’s chair for this outing. He uses the same formula for this sequel that he used to a great degree with the “Mad Max” trilogy: Don’t repeat, re-invent. Unlike the original, “Babe: Pig in the City” has a dark edge to it, a genuine sense of the bizarre and, like the original, a love and respect for its fully-rounded characters, animal or otherwise.

If the movie has a drawback, it is that one cannot easily recommend it to kids. I saw this movie about five times when it hit the cheap theaters, which it did rather quickly after the movie completely bombed at the multiplexes (despite great reviews). At every one of those screenings, one could always count on at least one walk-out from a parent and a crying toddler, usually during the Pit Bull chase scene or the scene in which animal specialists invade the boarding house and Flealick, the arthritic dog with a wagon for hind-legs has a run-in with danger that almost costs him his life. Dark stuff, indeed, but awesomely executed and, believe it or not, referenced in film schools.

For the rest of us, the movie is consistently, seamlessly wondrous. Andrew Lesnie’s stunning cinematography gives the movie its dark mood and surreal joy with his playful use of shadows and light shafts. Colin Gibson’s art direction and Roger Ford’s production design give the movie an otherworldly feel to it, without overwhelming the story. The animal trainers deserve a huge round of applause for helping the animals hit their marks on some complex and daunting single-take shots. The special effects teams of Rhythm and Hues, Mill Film and Animal Logic do the animals such amazing service that one almost wants to nominate the animals for Best Actor awards due to their sensitive and brilliant portrayals.

I had a friend who rooted for “Babe” to win the Best Picture Oscar in 1995. “’Braveheart’ is an awesome movie,” he said. “But when a movie about a talking pig makes you cry, that is something special.” I agree. For its sequel to be one of the most amazing movies I have ever seen is more than special, it’s downright miraculous. A special DVD edition of both “Babe” movies will be available shortly and will certainly earn some shelf space in my library. Yet, I may have to skip some of the explanations of how these films got made. I’m dying to know, but why spoil it?

link directly to this review at
originally posted: 09/02/03 23:29:38
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User Comments

6/12/13 Funesta umbra A truly complex film, anthropomorphic but honest. 5 stars
5/16/11 Dr.Lao Everything the original wasn't: creepy, charmless and burdened with lame attempts at humor 1 stars
9/27/10 Jennifer kimberly great family movie 4 stars
7/21/09 millersxing Amusing blend of Dickens with Orwell plus a dash of L Frank Baum. Delightful! 5 stars
12/04/07 Isaac's Mama This is a great film with wonderful special effects and artistic intrigue. 5 stars
8/31/07 scotty stunningly great film 5 stars
9/14/05 Alphanana Disney on acid 5 stars
9/04/04 T.B. I like the first one better 2 stars
6/15/04 T. Maj Creepy, disturbing, might even scare kids-- total letdown from original 2 stars
12/06/03 john brilliant movie - but VERY different in style from the first - be prepared! 5 stars
9/28/03 Alice Babe got an award from animal right fighters.This one is anti animal rights (monkeys???) 1 stars
9/11/03 filmfatale Fun and awesome movie - deserved the kudos it received. 5 stars
9/09/03 Boombah Baby As a movie, great. As a kids' movie... not so much. 3 stars
9/05/03 bob mckenzie collin was paid by the pig 1 stars
8/06/03 Double G pig had boogy's in his nose 1 stars
4/22/03 lauren cleggett you little ripper 5 stars
8/06/02 nadine best stuff 5 stars
8/20/01 hen very good.I think he was cut!!!!!!!! 5 stars
8/08/01 Mr. Hat Better than the original. 4 stars
4/10/01 Gary This is an alright movie, but a terrible sequel. Babe was great, PITC is not! 3 stars
4/05/01 Andrew Carden Pretty cute sequel. Not such a tear-jerker, but pretty funny. 4 stars
4/05/01 Lynda Madaras great if you like pigs 4 stars
3/28/01 Jade Mckay I personally liked the first one betta than the no 2 but no2. keept me interested to watch 4 stars
12/22/00 Piggy lover God Dam this movie was under appreciated, Why? 5 stars
11/13/00 The EVIL Penguin Sucked!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! 1 stars
11/12/00 Linda Davick unbelieveably wonderful 5 stars
11/04/00 Maria It was so cute!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! 4 stars
11/03/00 rhiannon whyte it was da best video i have ever seen 5 stars
10/13/00 Nathan Copland Had a little laugh.Still pretty cute. 4 stars
8/27/00 minimasterab i can't believe kids enjoy this crap 1 stars
8/03/00 theep Raises the bar for family entertainment 5 stars
7/23/00 Tyler Peterson Kids who just got run over by a truck might find this sleazy bullshit entertaining. 1 stars
3/19/00 David Rogers I haven't seen this, don't plan to. The first one caused this rating. 1 stars
11/01/99 tits it's all right 3 stars
9/05/99 Weird Andy Strange and wonderful. This kiddie flick has real depth. A complete suprise. 5 stars
7/17/99 soccer_mum Why did they *have* to make this disappointing sequal. Original was great...this sucked. 1 stars
7/17/99 Glenn A dark masterpiece, it's not "Babe." Chandelier scene stinks, though. 5 stars
6/30/99 hum a kids film yes but there is alot to this movie.thoughtful 4 stars
5/31/99 Arkansas Jon Not what most would have expected. Kinda dark, yet still cute and heartwarming. 4 stars
3/17/99 Ah Dooey A masterpiece well done, compared to Paulie. 5 stars
3/11/99 haden lawyer A kid's movie that does't overly sanitize the genre (Pinnochio was "disturbing" too) 5 stars
1/19/99 grunter outclasses all Disney/Pixar/Dreamworks kids' productions for the last 10 years; JUST SEE IT 5 stars
1/06/99 E Creative, original, moving, fantastic. No wonder it flopped. 5 stars
1/02/99 Oscar Goldman It blew. What were they thinking when they wrote that script. Farmer Hogget paralyzed?! 1 stars
12/11/98 Mike Mc good one...not really for younger dark (don't be so eager with the oscar nods!) 4 stars
12/06/98 Mr Showbiz So dark and cynical it's likely to make kids cry or feel alienated. 2 stars
12/04/98 Bob Very good. Better than the original. Don't believe the numbers. Go see it! 5 stars
11/30/98 RBR Fun except for a couple disturbing scenes that should not have been in this movie.Well Done 4 stars
11/25/98 Lord Of The Dunce Good, but not a patch on the first. Too forced and frenzied. 3 stars
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  25-Nov-1998 (PG)
  DVD: 24-Aug-2004


  10-Dec-1998 (G)

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