Babe: Pig in the City

Sorry, I don't follow you
★★★
☆☆
Released: 
1998
Director: 
George Miller
Starring: 
Magda Szubanski, Mary Stein, Elizabeth Daily, Mickey Rooney
The Setup: 
Adorable piglet from the first has a new, gritty adventure in the big city.
Discussion: 

One thing that nails my particular narcissism right on the head is the idea that a movie is too smart to be understood by the common masses, creating opportunity for me to swoop in and, in my unending genius, see the true beauty within and explain it to my worshipping minions [that would be you]. Such was the intended narrative here. This sequel was quite a departure from the tone and story of the original film, and is a kids' film that is fairly gritty and dark. Thus one might assume that it is an unheralded work of brilliance the mall-bound masses simply might not have the intellectual capacity to comprehend. However, upon review we find the tonal departure more of a "WTF?" than a signal of visionary genius, and the gritty tone not all THAT gritty, and the end result really just a fairly garish children's film that isn't that bad, but also isn't that great.

We open back on the farm with babe coming back from the celebration that closed the first film. Soon Babe causes a massive piece of machinery to fall on the farmer's head while he's in a well, putting him in traction. With him out of commission the farm starts failing, and soon will be repossessed. So Mrs. Hoggett and Babe fly to "the city," but upon arrival Babe gets into a conversation with a dog who, while demonstrating his abilities to make humans come on its command, inadvertently identifies Babe as carrying drugs! Then Mrs. Hoggett is arrested and, it is implied, undergoes a cavity search! I thought that was a bit over the line, but we'll see that Mrs. Hoggett is quite abused for laughs throughout the film.

She and Babe soon end up in this hotel for animals run by a very tall woman with a hairdo like a thatched roof. She speaks by asking a question, then answering it. Soon Babe gets involved with the other residents, mostly a family of chimps in a Streetcar Named Desire kind of arrangement, with a female floozy and a gruff husband. They perform an act for children at a hospital, which Babe ends up accidentally burning down and, by implication, horribly traumatizing the hospitalized kids. Like I said, more WTF? than anything.

SPOILERS > > >
Blah, blah, soon Mrs. Hoggett is arrested again and thrown in jail [forget why], and there's this whole big chase where Babe barely ends up escaping the jaws of this big nasty Pit Bull. But through a series of circumstances too bizarre to explain the Pit Bull ends up about to drown, when Babe saves him. From that point on, the Pit Bull puts Babe in charge and there's a long, somewhat sweet [also somewhat tedious] scene in which he forces all of the animals in the hotel to line up to thank Babe one by one. By the way, in here a poodle dyed pink and with a breathy sex symbol voice has had a line about all sorts of different men using her over and over. Ummm, appropriate?

So all these animals from the neighborhood come stay in the house, and this upsets the neighbors, and they call the police, who come in and round up all the animals. This sequence is one of the many "What exactly did they have in mind here?" sections, as it is quite slow, quiet and somber, and goes on quite a long time. You're just sitting there wondering what kind of tone they were going for, because what's here is so strange. Anyway, then there's a chase to this hospital where all the animals are put into pens--there is an implication that they will be used for animal testing--until Babe shows up and frees them all.

Mrs. Hoggett and the tall woman soon arrive at the hospital. Mrs. Hoggett is, at this point, covered in a thick glue, and we've seen her dress split open, revealing her plump butt and underwear, whe she tried to bend over. But this is just the beginning of our "Isn't abusing fat women funny?" content, which will comprise the remainder of the film. Babe and animals end up at this big reception downstairs, where the animals make the expected mayhem--you know, animals making a mess of snooty black-tie affairs is inherently funny... did you know that?--and resulting in a sequence that goes on way too long in which Mrs. Hoggett has her pants inflated like a balloon [making it look as though she's got an enormous fat ass], and then bounces all around the room on said ass, because abusing fat older women is inherently funny. There's a little coda in which we see that the farm is saved, and all the animals from the city came and lived on the farm with them.
< < < SPOILERS END

So as I said, I had hoped that this would be a dark children's film with an unusual idea it was trying to express. What it turns out to be is a dark children's film without an idea, just a really misguided, almost mean-spirited, sense of terror and calamity. I wouldn't mind a kids' film trying to get across that "bad things happen" instead of the typical "everything's going to be fine," but this movie just takes it all a bit far. A huge piece of farm equipment falling on a frail old man's head? That man in traction? Economic woes that might mean eviction for our heroes? Our farmer' wife being strip-searched for drugs? Ailing children in a hospital ward being terrorized by a fire? Our animals heroes all rouded up and sent to a lab for animal testing? It kind of goes over the line early and often, but doesn't seem tethered to one central idea, which makes it ultimately come off as mean-spirited--especially in contrast to the total low-key sweetness of the original. This one has the air of someone replacing the cake at a kids' birthday party with a horrible sour cake, just to see all the kids cry.

That said, there is a whole air here of this being a big, colorful, over-the-top kids' movie in the Willy Wonka vein, with all sorts of outrageous characters. Okay, got that, but it's still a vast change from the tone and content of the original. But this part is what I mean when I say that it's not a dark film with a concept it's trying to get across--like, say, Return to Oz--but rather just an average misguided childrens' film that really, REALLY misses the mark. I'd say you're safe in skipping.

Should you watch it: 

Nah, not really. Not much to see here.