Babe: Pig in the City

on November 27, 1998 by Wade Major
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Plagued by rumors of eleventh-hour rescue efforts, Universal Pictures can take at least partial solace in knowing that the long-awaited sequel to 1995's surprise hit, "Babe," is not as bad as it was rumored to be. But neither is it scarcely even a shadow of its famous predecessor.
A bizarre, confused smorgasbord of ideas and concepts that often seem as lost as the film's star, "Babe: Pig in the City" suffers from a perennial Hollywood malady: the misguided belief that more is always better the second time around. Indeed, the new film has more of just about everything: more animals, more chase scenes, more locations, more jokes, more jeopardy and more people. More of everything, in fact, except charm.
Picking up immediately where the first film left off, the sequel finds Farmer Hoggett (James Cromwell) sidelined by an accident and unable to tend to the farm. Threatened with the farm's repossession, Mrs. Hoggett (Magda Szubanski) and Babe set out to the city to collect an "appearance fee" at a fair, but a series of mishaps strands them in a strange, generic "City" where their adventures are escalated by even greater mishaps. Once again a "pig out of water," Babe is forced to rise to the occasion and come to the rescue, forming an unlikely alliance of dogs, cats and trained simians to save both Mrs. Hoggett and the farm.
The original "Babe," of course, had the element of surprise to its advantage. It came with no stars, no hype and no expectations. Audiences responded to its freshness and uniqueness. "Babe: Pig in the City," on the other hand, is virtually hamstrung by expectations, its makers over-anxiously and self-consciously trying just a little too hard to one-up what the first film did with such effortless innocence.
Essentia lly little more than a series of chaotic, disjointed set pieces, each more outlandish than the last, the film also suffers from the heavy-handed style of director George Miller. A co-writer and co-producer on both the original "Babe" and the sequel, Miller nonetheless seems an odd choice to duplicate the delicate touch of "Babe" director Chris Noonan. As a director, Miller is best known for the kinetic intensity of the "Mad Max" series, "Lorenzo's Oil" and "The Witches of Eastwick." It comes as little surprise, then, that much of "Babe: Pig in the City" begins to look like Miller's previous work, with the finale torn almost verbatim from "Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome."
Any such criticism, however, hinges strictly on the film's failure to measure up to the original, which in some respects may be unfair. For while "Babe: Pig in the City" likely won't score many points with adults, there remains more than enough to keep children anxiously engaged and entertained. Unfortunately, in an already crowded family film season, that may not be enough. Starring Magda Szubanski, James Cromwell, Mary Stein, Mickey Rooney and the voices of E.G. Daily and Steven Wright. Directed by George Miller. Written by George Miller, Judy Morris and Mark Lamprell. Produced by George Miller, Doug Mitchell and Bill Miller. A Universal release. Family. Rated G. Running time: 96 min
Tags: Magda Szubanski, James Cromwell, Mary Stein, Mickey Rooney, voices of E.G. Daily, Steven Wright, Directed by George Miller, Written by George Miller, Judy Morris, Mark Lamprell, Produced by George Miller, Doug Mitchell. Bill Miller, Universal, Family, Farmer Hoggett, Mrs. Hoggett, Babe
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