[Screen It]


(1998) (Magda Szubanski, voice of Elizabeth Daily) (G)

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Children's: Upon learning that his boss' farm faces foreclosure, Babe the talking pig sets out for the big city to earn enough money to save his beloved home.
Having just won the National Sheep Dog Trials, Babe (voice of E.G. DAILY) a pig who thinks he's a sheepdog, returns to the Hoggett farm a hero. His fame quickly turns to sorrow, however, when he tries to help his "boss," Arthur Hoggett (JAMES CROMWELL), and accidentally causes the farmer to be injured and then confined to bed. Things get even worse when it's learned that the bank is preparing to foreclose on the farm.

Remembering the many offers they got for their pig to make appearances in exchange for payment, Arthur's wife, Esme (MAGDA SZUBANSKI), sets out with Babe for an overseas fair to make enough money to save the farm. A series of mishaps in a layover airport, however, causes the two to miss their connecting flight, resulting in them being stuck in a foreign city with no place to stay.

Nonetheless, they eventually learn of, and check into, the Flealands Motel, run by the Landlady (MARY STEIN) and Fugly Floom (MICKEY ROONEY), the latter of whom manages "The Fabulous Flooms And Their Amazing Apes" small circus act. Included in that are his chimps, Easy (voiced by NATHAN KRESS & MYLES JEFFREY), Bob (voice of STEVEN WRIGHT) and his pregnant wife, Zootie (voice of GLENNE HEADLY), along with Tug, a little capuchin monkey, and Thelonius (voice of JAMES COSMO), an old orangutan who's always dressed as a butler.

When Esme is mistakenly arrested and the Landlady leaves with an ill Floom, however, Babe, the primates, and several dogs, including Flealick (voice of ADAM GOLDBERG), an arthritic pooch who pulls himself along in a miniature chariot, Nigel (voice of EDDIE BARTH), a proper English bulldog, and his "yes man," Mastiff Alan (also voice of EDDIE BARTH), set out to find some food for themselves.

As Babe's old friend, Ferdy (voice of DANNY MANN), the accident prone duck, flies from the farm to the foreign city, and a trio of small mice provide squeaky musical accompaniment, Babe's courage and tenacity makes him new friends with the others.

As they deal with a ferocious pit bull (voice of STANLEY RALPH ROSS), an escaped guard dog who chases the porker, as well as a run-in with the local animal control team who are determined to rid the Flealands Motel of any animals, Babe and the others learn that through their actions they can make an otherwise dire situation better.

If they like the original, or movies with cute animals in general, they probably will.
For not containing material to warrant a higher rating.
It's not likely that kids will look to "real" animals (notwithstanding their vocalization) as role models, and the only human with a substantial part, MAGDA SZUBANSKI, as Mrs. Hoggett, is okay (although not very well developed as a character overall).


OUR TAKE: 4 out of 10
Released in 1995, the original "Babe" was a surprise hit among critics and viewers. Grossing around $66 million domestically and recipient of seven Oscar nominations (including Best Picture, but winner of only one -- Best Visual Effects), the film was cute and charming. While I found the critical and Academy reaction to it a bit overrated, it was a fun little picture that included a few menacing moments -- as do many movies aimed at kids -- to keep things interesting.

Now, however, and following the "sequel should be darker" path that director Tim Burton took with the "Batman" series, writer/director George Miller has given a similar treatment to the porker sequel, "Babe: Pig in the City." While the Caped Crusader could survive such a dark and gloomy surrounding, it seems a very odd approach and decidedly huge misstep to take with a kids movie about a talking pig.

Reportedly, Universal had to do some last minute editing to this release after receiving negative responses to test screenings, as well as to get the film down to a G rating. Whatever they did, however, was not enough. While it would be interesting to see what they cut out, they certainly left a great deal of gloomy and foreboding material that should all but doom this film to critical and financial failure, especially considering its extremely sky-high budget.

While the original was directed by Chris Noonan, the sequel has fallen into the hands of Australian director George Miller, a talented filmmaker responsible for films such as "The Witches of Eastwick" and the "Mad Max" (Mel Gibson) pictures, who also cowrote the original "Babe" film.

As demonstrated by those other films, however, Miller has a knack for adding bits (or big chunks) of comically menacing material, and while that's perfectly fine for pictures aimed at adults, it doesn't mix well with material aimed at young kids who won't get the intended irony and/or dark humor.

According to the film's press kit Miller states: "You can't soft pedal, especially with kids. They too, live in a world where with every bit of joy, there's sadness, with every life, there's death. You must deal with both sides or the piece is not whole." While that may be somewhat true, many parents may favor the happier and sunnier surroundings of the original for their kids, especially the young ones who will definitely be attracted to this picture.

To be fair, the film has its share of fun and lively moments, returns most of the familiar characters from the first (including the cute, singing mice trio) and does end on a sunny and uplifting note as everything turns out okay by the story's end. In addition, the kids will most likely be highly entertained by the animal characters, their vocalization, and the shenanigans in which they're involved.

As such, the collective work of animal trainers/supervisors Steve Martin and Karl Miller (for wrangling literally hundreds of animals throughout the film) and Neal Scanlan (animal animatronics) and animal visual effects supervisor, Bill Westenhofer, should all get kudos for their tremendous effort in making the animals seem realistically human in their vocal delivery and behavior.

While Babe (voiced by E.G. Daily instead of the original's Christine Cavanuagh without any noticeable change) obviously returns and is the central character, the scene stealers are the three chimps, a capuchin, and an orangutan dressed and acting like an old fuddy-duddy butler.

Since primates more closely resemble humans than any of the other animals -- especially in their extremely expressive eyes -- and the special effects used to generate their mouth movement are so realistic with each vocalization so suited for the respective characters, you'll soon forget that they can't really talk. Since the effect works so well, it's my guess that we'll soon see TV's favorite chimp, Lancelot Link, heading to the big screen for some more monkeying around.

The rest of the animal characters and their respective voices are also fine, with Stanley Ralph Ross doing a fine and funny "wiseguy" take on his pit bull character. The human characters are okay -- despite their supporting character status -- although fans of the original film may be disappointed that James Cromwell -- Farmer Hoggett -- doesn't occupy much screen time in his role that merely bookends the main proceedings.

The story, by Miller and scribes Judy Morris and Mark Lamprell, is competent enough, although Babe's goal to save the farm from foreclosure pretty much evaporates midway through the story (with a deus ex machina -- a last minute element -- thrown in to resolve the farm's financial woes). The film's narration by "earthy" voiced Roscoe Lee Browne, perfectly suits the picture's fairytale feel.

While the film has its moments, it's clearly too dark for children's entertainment, no matter what Miller believes to be true. Although the characters and vocalizations are cute and well-done, the fact that we've already seen this before also lessens that initial "fun" feeling the first film so effortlessly exuded.

Decent, but clearly not as good as its predecessor, we found the conflict of the film's lighthearted fun and its dark and menacing danger too incongruous for its own good. As such, "Babe: Pig in the City" gets just a 4 out of 10.

Here's a quick summary of the content found in this G-rated film. Compared to the original "Babe" (that had some menacing moments), this one is far more dark and gloomy, and has several scenes and sequences that may be scary or unsettling to younger viewers -- all dependant, of course, on their age, maturity level, and tolerance for such material.

Parents may be surprised by two brief scenes that show buxom women in skimpy bikinis that show a great deal of cleavage and other exposed flesh (especially for a G-rated film about speaking animals). Some slapstick violence also occurs and some kids may be upset by, or want to imitate, having some of the animals occasionally come into harm's way (although none are killed, there are some perilous moments and encounters).

Due to the foreboding atmosphere permeating much of the film, we suggest that you take a closer look at the content if you're concerned about the film's appropriateness for younger children in your home.

  • Some champagne is seen at a reception/dinner.
  • None.
  • Some street thugs try to steal Esme's bags.
  • The pit bull menacingly chases after Babe, but that's his job since he's a guard dog.
  • An animal comments that its owner tied it up in a bag and threw it into the water.
  • Some may see the Landlady's neighbor (who calls animal control on her and the animals she's keeping) as having some of both, while others may see the Landlady for having some of both for apparently illegally harboring the animals.
  • Much of the film has a dark and foreboding atmosphere, in addition to what's listed below, that may be unsettling to some younger kids (all, of course, dependant on any given child's age, maturity level and tolerance for such material).
  • A brief scene where Babe and Farmer Hoggett have an accident and are briefly stuck in a deep well may be scary or unsettling to some younger viewers.
  • Some street thugs try to take Esme's bags.
  • Kids may be upset upon seeing Floom being carried out on a stretcher and looking rather ill (as Thelonius states that he couldn't wake him).
  • The primates have Babe go into a dark, fenced area (supposedly for sheep in there), but once inside he hears growling and then two guard dogs try to attack him, but are restrained by their collars and chain leashes. They do eventually break free, however, and chase after Babe (for several minutes that may scare some younger kids).
  • As the pit bull gets closer, Babe's life flashes before his eyes in a quick montage that may also be unsettling to some younger kids.
  • Babe then falls into a street canal, and the pit bull lunges after him, but is stopped just above the water by the chain he's dragging behind him. As the chain slips bit by bit, the pit bull eventually finds himself underwater, and moments later appears to have drowned (we see his apparently lifeless body under the water, but Babe then rescues him).
  • An animal comments that its owner tied it up in a bag and threw it into the water.
  • A long sequence where the animals panic as the Animal Control workers raid the motel and capture the animals (sometimes violently), and drag them away in nets (or get a snare around Babe's neck or cause a goldfish to be stranded on the dry floor) may be scary or unsettling to some kids.
  • Moments later, we see Babe hanging from a snare around his neck that's held by a man hanging from a window (and it seems like the pig is being hanged).
  • Flealick, who had been holding onto an animal control truck speeding down the road, is violently flung across the road and we then see his little body quivering (and he seems to be dead since we momentarily see him in "dog heaven," but he's later okay and apparently no worse for the wear).
  • An animal control worker approaches as the animals try to make their big escape.
  • We briefly see an infant chimp hanging on an exposed electric line and see it shocked several times before it falls (and is caught and is okay).
  • Handguns/Other possible guns: Briefly used in target practice as Ferdy lands in front of their target (and they blast the target behind him).
  • Handgun: Briefly held by Tug.
  • Phrase: "Losers."
  • The way the animal control people "manhandle" the animals while catching them, along with Flealick being pulled behind a moving vehicle and then violently tumbling across the street (played for laughs) and another animal commenting on its owner tying it into a bag and throwing it into the water (not seen), may give some kids the wrong ideas about how to interact with animals.
  • Esme and the Landlady ward off people by firing fire extinguishers at them.
  • The pit bull suddenly bursts out from under a pile of debris.
  • A moderate amount of suspenseful and occasionally foreboding music occurs in the film.
  • None.
  • There was one use of what sounded like "God" as an exclamation.
  • In a street setting (seen twice), we briefly see several women in very skimpy bikinis that show a great deal of cleavage (as well as the sides of breasts), and some partially bare butts in high cut bottoms (including a frontal view of an extremely narrow bathing suit front).
  • A female poodle briefly, but dishearteningly comments about other dogs having "had their ways with me" and then comments about their promises being lies.
  • None.
  • None.
  • How Babe saves the day and saves the pit bull that was trying to attack him, risking his own life to do so.
  • Why the animal control workers came and captured the animals from the motel.
  • How to treat animals (in the film animals have been abandoned, are violently captured by animal control people, etc...) that may give kids the wrong impression of how to treat animals.
  • Some materials accidentally fall and hit Farmer Hoggett in a deep well (along with him being tossed up and down in the well) that result in him being injured enough to later be bedridden.
  • Some slapstick material occurs when Esme struggles with some street thugs who try to steal her bags and she sends them reeling across the street where they knock over others.
  • Ferdy is nearly shot by a hail of bullets as he lands in front of a target at a gun firing range.
  • Babe accidentally wrecks Floom's circus props, causing some of them to catch on fire.
  • A pit bull tries to attack and then chases Babe through the city.
  • Bob jumps onto some animal control workers who are trying to snare Zootie.
  • Some animal control people capture the animals in somewhat of an occasionally violent fashion (including snaring Babe around the neck and then dragging him away) -- all of which will seem more violent to kids since these animals are real characters to them.
  • Flealick, who had been holding onto an animal control truck speeding down the road, is violently flung across the road and we then see his little body quivering (and he seems to be dead since we momentarily see him in "dog heaven," but he's later okay and apparently no worse for the wear).
  • More people are knocked down and into each other in a slapstick fashion at the end of the movie.

  • Reviewed November 23, 1998 / Posted on November 25, 1998

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