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Babe: Pig in the City(1998)
Babe, fresh from his victory in the sheepherding contest, returns to Farmer Hoggett's farm, but after Farmer Hoggett is injured and unable to work, Babe has to go to the big city to save the farm.
For more about Babe: Pig in the City and the Babe: Pig in the City Blu-ray release, see Babe: Pig in the City Blu-ray Review published by Jeffrey Kauffman on May 2, 2013 where this Blu-ray release scored 3.5 out of 5.
Starring: James Cromwell, Magda Szubanski, Mickey Rooney, Elizabeth Daily, Danny Mann, Glenne Headly
Director: George Miller
» See full cast & crew
Babe: Pig in the City Blu-ray Review
If he can make it there. . .
Reviewed by Jeffrey Kauffman, May 2, 2013
When Babe proved to be one of the biggest and most unexpected hits of 1995, the handwriting was probably already on the wall that a sequel would be inevitable. The little fable about a talking pig who thinks he's a sheepdog seemed to touch something rather universal in audiences worldwide, and the film's beautifully rendered storybook setting and brilliant special effects work, which was certainly head and shoulders above the likes of, say, Mr. Ed, made it seem quite possible that these farm animals, including Babe the pig, could indeed talk. Perhaps surprisingly, a lot of people were caught off guard by Babe: Pig in the City, decrying it as an overly dark and dour entry in what was a nascent franchise, but one has to assume those people either weren't paying attention to the first Babe or perhaps at least missed the first few minutes of the first film. While there's no denying Babe's ultimate sweetness, there's also no denying the sinister Grimm's fairy tale ambience that ran rampant through the film, not least in the opening sequence when the horrors of what animals endure in "industrial farming" environments. What may be true about Babe: Pig in the City is that the darkness and light are in more extreme contrast, as certain elements of the sequel are decidedly more whimsical than in the first film, while at the same time the basic storyline which finds Babe abandoned and alone in a Big City which is in fact the entire United States seen in microcosm, has an unsettling aspect that is hard to ignore.
Babe: Pig in the City picks up exactly where the first Babe left off, with the celebratory parade following Babe's unlikely victory in the sheepherding contest. Right off the bat that uneasy dialectic between light and dark is on display when a skywriting plane flies by over the aggregation of folks cheering on Babe and Arthur Hoggett (James Cromwell), and it appears the word being spelled is "ham", a perhaps frightening reference to the ultimate fate of most pigs. Suddenly, though a "c" and "p" bookend that tasty center to form "champ" and we realize that Babe's success is being written in the wind. However, Babe's incipient curiosity soon leads to a disaster that leaves Arthur seriously injured, and in the wake of that event, Esme Hoggett (Magda Szubanski) finds herself unable to manage the farm and keep expenses paid. With creditors literally looming right outside the door threatening to repossess everything the Hoggetts have worked so hard to attain, Esme decides the offer of a "personal appearance" by Babe with a substantial fee attached is the easiest way out of their predicament. And so off to the Big City she goes, with Babe in tow.
Things go to hell in a hand basket rather quickly when Babe meets a zealous drug sniffing beagle at the airport, a dog who is only too happy to show Babe how merely barking manically (to supposedly indicate drugs) will immediately bring the dog snacks from his handlers. Unforutnately the canine decides to do this "act" atop Babe's carrier, and so Babe is x-rayed and Mrs. Hoggett is detained for questioning, causing them to miss their connecting flight to where their personal appearance had been scheduled. That leaves Mrs. Hoggett in the uncomfortable position of being in a strange city with a pig of all things, and of course she's quite concerned that she needs to find a place to stay until they can get a flight back to their farm, a farm which at this point looks like it's going to be taken from them in any case.
That in turn sets up the central section of the film, when Mrs. Hoggett is given a tip by a pig faced airport employee about a nearby hotel that will let her have an animal. This is also where the film's delightful production design starts to really show its whimsy. The hotel is in an area lined by canals, sort of like Venice, with little bridges forging connective tissues between various tiny lanes. The hotel itself seems like something out of a Dickens novel as indeed the hotel's proprietress (Mary Stein), a gangly woman who initially screams from her front door at Mrs. Hoggett that no pets are allowed, but who then meets her in an alleyway by a side entrance and declares that her earlier display was simply to appease nosy neighbors, and that Mrs. Hoggett and Babe are more than welcome to stay in her establishment. Once Babe gets into his room and looks out of a porthole, the "city" runs from Hollywood on the left to the Statue of Liberty on the right, almost like a cinematic version of one of those funny old New Yorker covers.
The hotel is full to the brim with an odd assortment of animals, including a roomful of cats who specialize in choral singing and some rather nasty chimpanzees who are something of a local crime ring and take advantage of Babe's na´vete. Rather incredibly Mickey Rooney shows up in a brief cameo as the unfortunately named Uncle Fugly, the proprietress' uncle who "employs" the monkeys in his circus act and who tries to get Babe to participate, to (of course) disastrous results.
Mrs. Hoggett and Babe are separated for quite a bit of the film, and the major emphasis is on Babe finding his way in a labyrinthine world that is far, far different than the bucolic joys of the Hoggett farm. The other animal supporting roles are rather well defined in this section, including a couple of dogs who provide comedy relief as well as an apparently evil orangutan who has ideas of world (or at least hotel) domination on his mind.
Babe: Pig in the City may not have quite the emotional resonance of the first Babe, but it's still a rather enjoyable and often quite funny outing, albeit one tinged with a certain undercurrent of danger and distrust. Babe's inherent goodness of course saves the day, and his efforts along with those of Mrs. Hoggett herself not only manage to save the farm (was there ever any real doubt?) but the huge menagerie of animals that Babe has met as well. As with most fairy tales, any lingering darkness is easily dispelled by a happy ending.
Babe: Pig in the City Blu-ray, Video Quality
Babe: Pig in the City is presented on Blu-ray courtesy of Universal Studios with a VC-1 encoded 1080p transfer in 1.85:1. The somewhat dingy environment of the hotel means that at least some of Babe: Pig in the City doesn't quite pop with the vibrancy that was exhibited in the first release. There are, however, several standout sequences, including one where Mrs. Hoggett ventures out into a brightly lit crowd scene, as well as some of Babe's shenanigans around the hotel at various times. Fine object detail is pleasing in close-ups to the point that individual snout hairs on the pig can easily be seen, but midrange and wide shots are often rather soft looking, with some approaching fuzzy territory. This is a Universal catalog release after all, and while DNR seems to have been applied, grain is still evident, at least in some of the outdoor footage. There may have been some artificial sharpening done as there is minimal but noticeable haloing at various moments throughout the film. Colors look accurate and are often quite vivid (though a lot of this film is bathed in browns).
Babe: Pig in the City Blu-ray, Audio Quality
Babe: Pig in the City's lossless DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix is rather good, though subtle at times. The best moments in terms of surround activity are big set pieces like Mrs. Hoggett's foray into the city as well as a great sequence where Babe is being chased by two guard dogs. That sequence especially is rife with fantastic activity running rampant through the side channels as Babe attempts to escape the beasts and one of them drags an ever increasing aggregation of items behind it that have gotten stuck on its broken leash. Dialogue (and narration) is very cleanly presented. Fidelity is excellent and dynamic range is reasonably wide.
Babe: Pig in the City Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
No supplements are offered on this Blu-ray disc.
Babe: Pig in the City Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Babe: Pig in the City isn't as magical as the first Babe, but it's a whale (or a pig) of a lot better than most sequels. The characters are fun and whimsical, the production design is fantastic, and though the story doesn't have the universal appeal of the first Babe, it still has many classic elements that distinguish the best fairy tales. This Blu-ray features good video and very good audio and even without the addition of any supplements, Babe: Pig in the city comes Recommended.
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Babe: Pig in the City Blu-ray, News and Updates
• Three Universal Catalog Titles in May - February 22, 2013
Universal Studios Home Entertainment has announced the Blu-ray release of three catalog titles this May: Babe: Pig in the City, Jesus Christ Superstar and In the Name of the Father. Each title is available for pre-order and streets on May 7th.
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