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BABE: A PIG IN THE CITY

1998, Dir. George Miller
97 min. Rated G.
Starring: Magda Szubanski, James Cromwell, Mickey Rooney, E.G. Daily.

Review by Noel Wood

Holy Shit. That talking pig again. How the hell did they do that?

Well. Very well. Damned near to pefection, if you ask me. I don't mean that they served him up with pineapple rings and an apple in his mouth, I mean the movie itself. Brilliantly choreographed and directed by THE ROAD WARRIOR's George Miller, BABE 2 is not your everyday talkin' pig kiddie flick.

As dark, forboding comedy goes, this ranks up there with Terry Gilliam's BRAZIL and Caro/Jeunet's DELICATESSEN. We leave behind the serenity and simplicity of Hoggett farm, and wander in to a fantastic cityscape filled with a whole new world of characters. Gone are the motherly sheepdog and gentle ewe, in favor of theiving monkeys and invalid canines. Youthful heroic messages of triumph over adversity are not to be found, but rather we get the graduation of a character far more complex than its exterior shows yet simple enough to return to its elementary roots.

Need an example? In an elaborate and thrilling chase scene where Babe flees from a pack of angry dogs, we see one of the most simplistic yet profound character developments ever filmed, as Babe turns to his attacker, and in all his naivete, is only able to ask, "Why?". At this moment in time, you realize that this is more than just merchandising schtick for plush toys. This is character study at its finest.

Fast-forward to the end of said chase scene, where the antagonist, a pit bull, has hung himself from a chain and is near drowning. In a scene probably far too explicit for children's eyes, we see the rest of the animals stand frozen in shock at the horriying sight, while the victim--our naive farm-bred hero--risks his own life to save another. Suddenly a theme of redemption comes in to play, followed by a heroic epiphany as the pit bull swears himself to supporting the otherwise ignored pig.

It's hard to imagine these themes coming to play in a children's film, especially when I'm referring to the characters as "pig", "dog", et al. But it's something you truly have to see for yourself. I was expecting to be disappointed in this film. But the only problem I had with it was getting used to E.G. Daly's takeover as Babe's voice after enjoying Christine Cavanaugh in the original. You may roll your eyes at the over-the-top ballroom climax scene where Mrs. Hoggett, clad in an oversized clown suit, attempts to rescue her prize pig from animal control; but it's a wonderfully exaggerated scene that will keep the children amused as well as the adults.

For the most part, BABE: PIG IN THE CITY was ignored by critics and the moviegoing public, especially considering the amount of success the first installment had. The movie was panned as being "too dark" for children, and "too bizarre" for adults. It's unfortunate, because this is a wonderful piece of cinema that I cartainly believe is appropriate for all ages. The youthful energy and positive messages are there for the younger set. So what if it's dark? Do we have to shelter our children from reality forever? This was the same type of criticism that plagued Disney's HUNCHBACK OF NOTRE DAME, but the children loved that one as well. Classic children's literature is filled with themes of death and fear of the unknown, so why should we turn to nothing but squeaky-clean images of happiness? But I digress. I will give the late Gene Siskel credit for choosing this film as the best movie of the final year of his life.

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For questions, comments, or the occasional stalking letter, send mail to Noel Wood. Please give proper credit when using any materials found within this site.


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