Synopsis: Babe: Pig in the City takes the three musketeers Babe, Ferdy and Mrs. Hoggett on a crusade into the midst of a large city where despite incredible obstacles, they are able to turn enemies into friends, raise enough money to save the farm and combine the two worlds into one. Once again, it is Babe’s kind and steady heart that achieves miracles in this fun-filled fantasy tale the whole family will enjoy.
eyelights: its storytelling. its animals. its set designs. its production.
eyesores: its loss of innocence.
“Save the farm, Babe!”
I’m a HUGE fan of ‘Babe‘.
Yes, the movie with the pig.
I will forever believe that it was cheated out of an Academy Award for Best Picture due to Mel Gibson’s starpower; his ‘Braveheart’ was over-rated and certainly not worthy of the golden statuette.
‘Babe’ is my favourite kids movie ever and features prominently amongst my all-time favourite motion pictures.
Yes, so does ‘The Crow‘.
And ‘The Shining‘.
I like the dark, but I sometimes also love pure white light.
And ‘Babe’ is exactly that.
So you can imagine my excitement when I discovered that a sequel was being made. Though I didn’t rush to the cinema to see it (I rarely ever do), I made a point of getting it when it came out on home video.
I didn’t expect the movie to be as good. I mean, sequels rarely are, and the bar had been set so high with the original, anyway. Plus which it would be hard to imagine following a story of self-actualization.
I mean, Babe was now fulfilled.
So… what do you do with him?
Well, what George Miller (yep, the guy behind the ‘Mad Max‘ films) decided to do was to take Babe off of Hoggett Farm and throw him into another environment, to give him a new reason to prove himself.
So, in 1998, three years after ‘Babe’, ‘Babe: Pig in the City’ contrived for Babe to be sent out to make an appearance at a sheepdog herding contest with Esme Hoggett – in order to earn money to save the farm.
Along the way, they get stranded in the big city.
And then Babe is separated from Esme.
Babe must now survive by himself in a foreign environment, surrounded by strangers… and danger. Alone, he befriends a disparate group of ownerless animals in a large hotel and even becomes their leader.
It’s a story of redemption: Babe has to redeem himself for an accident that put Farmer Hoggett out of commission. It also finds the more hardened animals redeemed as they are in turn won over by Babe’s ways.
It’s about second chances.
It’s a fitting theme given that it’s the second feature in the series, but there are some major alarm bells ringing with this picture right at the onset: ‘Babe’s appeal was its progressive values and its innocence.
Neither are central here.
In fact, there’s a dramatic loss of innocence here: every step in Babe’s journey shakes one’s faith in humanity, from the bankers callously taking the farm, all the way to how the animals are treated by outsiders.
One could argue that it’s fair game as social commentary, but its contrast with the original film, which found a human investing all of his faith in a pig, is a radical one. Here, humans are harsh and threatening.
Even the animals are hardened by city life: Babe gets attacked by a pitbull (who eventually becomes his mafioso-like enforcer) and is scammed by a group of apes. Pets are left to fend for themselves and go hungry.
It’s a far cry from Babe’s country life.
This picture gets so dark at times that it can even be kind of scary: one dog almost drowns, dangling by his leg in a canal, and another is dragged behind a truck and gets tossed about. There’s even a reference to suicide.
This is not toddler-friendly.
There’s also the matter of separating Babe from Farmer Hoggett. Hoggett wasn’t just a true believer, his quiet dignity and faith played off of Babe’s charm and innocence so wonderfully. They were the perfect pair.
It’s only fair to now focus on Esme, who had barely a role in the original, but she’s merely a goofy cartoon character here; she doesn’t exude warmth in the way that Hoggett did for his prized sheep-herder.
It’s a big change.
Now don’t get me wrong: ‘Babe: Pig in the city’ is a well-crafted motion picture. I can’t fault it one bit for execution. It’s just that its vision is completely different: it’s ‘The Empire Strikes Back‘ to ‘Star Wars‘.
(i.e. The first was filled with a new hope and this one barely escapes the darkness.)
It’s a beautiful film: the sets, the architecture, are total eye-candy. The hotel that Babe finds himself in is lovely and the surrounding neighbourhood with its canal and the tongue-in-cheek signage are a sight.
It’s also perfectly-paced and enjoyable through and through. It’s just that it’s a completely different beast. It remains cute, what with the wide diversity of animal characters and Babe’s endearing perspective.
But it’s not nearly as inspiring.
‘Babe: Pig in the City’ is more commonplace as far as children movies go, but it’s an exceptionally solid one. Usually, kids movies are weak on script, performance and/or execution. ‘Babe 2’ has none of those flaws.
It’s just not ‘Babe’.
Date of viewing: November 13, 2017