movie film review | chris tookey

Babe: Pig In The City

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  Babe: Pig In The City Review
Tookey's Rating
6 /10
Average Rating
6.40 /10
Mrs. Hoggett ........ Magda Szubanski, Farmer Hoggett ...... James Cromwell, The Landlady ........ Mary Stein
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Directed by: George Miller
Written by: George Miller

Released: 1998
Origin: US
Colour: C
Length: 96

Babe’s clumsiness puts Farmer Hoggett (James Cromwell) on his back and jeopardises the financial future of his farm. Mrs Hoggett (Magda Szubanski) no longer wants to eat our hammy hero, and attempts to fly off with him to a lucrative personal appearance at a far-off state fair - a case, presumably, of “out of the frying-pan, into the fair”. While changing planes, they get busted for drugs - they are innocent of course - whereupon they become marooned in a never-never city full of urban landmarks: the Eiffel Tower, Sydney Opera House and the Hollywood sign, to name but three. Thanks to a kindly bystander,they find a place to stay while awaiting their flight home, in a curious boarding-house run by an eccentric animal-lover (Mary Stein) at the side of a Venetian-style canal. Here, Babe encounters a cats’ chorus, assorted dogs including a pink poodle that thinks it’s in a Tennesse Williams play, a singing goldfish, a family of chimpanzees and an aged clown (Mickey Rooney).
Reviewed by Chris Tookey

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Rooney is not at his funniest; and, when Mrs Hoggett gets into trouble with the police for apparently calling them pigs, the film becomes as confused and over-populated with animals as the boarding-house itself. The movie regains momentum when Babe becomes head of the boarding-household and saves everyone else’s bacon.

Those who have been looking forward to a second film about Babe may be surprised by how different this sequel is from the first.

Gone - except for a couple of brief appearances - are Farmer Hoggett and the magical rural settings. Gone, too, are the tight plotting and emotional intensity of Dick King-Smith’s original.

Australian producer-director George Miller (best known for the Mad Max movies) has shifted the tone towards the dark and grotesquely surreal. Some scenes are so eerie that they may remind adults of Tod Browning’s Freaks.

Fortunately, the new film retains the wicked, offbeat, literate sense of humour that enlivened the original. The fieldmouse chorus is back, defiantly singing Je Ne Regrette Rien. The pigheaded duck still raises a few laughs. The technical effects are again top-notch.

The story owes something to movies like Crocodile Dundee and Tarzan’s New York Adventure, but it’s a neat parable in its own right, about how inimical big cities can be to simple friendliness and humanity.

Despite an over-reliance on slapstick, there’s enough wry humour to keep adults amused. The storybook city and the imaginary world the movie creates ("a place just a little to the left of the 20th century") are wittily designed.

The sequel doesn’t achieve the eye-watering excellence of the first, but it’s charming family entertainment, a pig movie that’s not to be sniffed at.

"In a weird way, the story's autobiographical. I'm a country boy who moved to the city. So Babe's like my alter ego. I aspire to be like Babe."

(George Miller)

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