Babe: Pig in the City
Babe: Pig in the City USA, 1998.  Rated PG.  97 minutes.

Cast: Magda Szubanski, Mary Stein, James Cromwell, Mickey Rooney. Voices: E.G. Daily, Danny Mann, Glenne Headly, Steven Wright, Adam Goldberg, Hugo Weaving, Miriam Margolyes
Writers: George Miller, Judy Morris, Mark Lamprell
Music: Nigel Westlake
Cinematographer: Andrew Lesnie
Producer: Bill Miller, George Miller, Doug Mitchell
Director: George Miller

  Grade: B-
For kids: C
Review by Carlo Cavagna

I f Tim Burton were to direct a story by Charles Dickens (specifically, Oliver Twist), I imagine the result would be much like Babe: Pig in the City, the sequel to the Oscar-nominated 1996 film. Like Burton's work, Pig in the City is most definitely not a movie for young children, even though it seems like it should be. It's too disturbing. Also, as with most of Burton's work, the story is an incoherent afterthought. Pig in the City is worth seeing anyway. It occasionally does "recapture the magic" of the original, and the special effects are even better.

Despite the happy ending of the original Babe, we discover that all is not well on farmer Hoggett's homestead. Farmer Hoggett (James Cromwell) suffers an incapacitating accident, and Mrs. Hoggett (Magda Szubanski) must tend the farm alone. It's not long before the bank threatens foreclosure. To save the farm, Mrs. Hoggett travels to the big city with Babe (voice of E.G. Daily) to participate in the State Fair, where they can win the money to pay off the bank. But in a series of grim mishaps, they miss their connecting flight and are separated. Babe finds himself abandoned in a house full of stray animals, including a group of chimpanzees, an ape, singing cats, and numerous dogs. That's the part reminiscent of Oliver Twist. Babe--kindhearted, pure, naive, and completely out of his element--must extricate himself from his bewildering predicament and find a way to save the farm.

Like the original, Pig in the City makes an moving case against the everyday cruelties humans perpertrate on animals. The scenes of Babe being chased by murderous dogs and the strays being taken away by Animal Control are profoundly disquieting. After watching this movie, you'll want to hug your pet and not let go. But, at the same time, these violent images might haunt a young tot.

The movie closes with predicable farcical mayhem, featuring critters running amok during a formal reception and rotund Mrs. Hoggett swinging from a chandelier. These scenes are more appropriate for children, but are tacked onto a movie that's dark and only sporadically funny. Pig in the City attempts the same harmonious blend of adult themes and children's characters achieved so compellingly in the original Babe, but is far less successful.

Review © June 1999 by AboutFilm.Com and the author.
Image © 1999 Universal Studios.