FEATURING: E.G. Daily (voice), Magda Szubanski, Mickey Rooney, James Cromwell

PLOT: After the porcine Babe accidentally injures Farmer Hoggett, Mrs. Hoggett (Szubanski) takes over the family farm, which immediately begins losing money. Desperate, she takes Babe to the big city for another shepherding contest (like the one that ended the first film), but the duo find more than they bargained for, including an elaborate hotel populated almost exclusively by animals.

Still from Babe: Pig in the City (1998)
WHY IT WON’T MAKE THE LIST: While it’s definitely louder and more chaotic than the gentle original, this enjoyable sequel certainly doesn’t deserve its reputation as a bizarre miscalculation. If this website were about the 366 weirdest family films, Babe 2 might get on that list.

COMMENTS: Unlike the beloved, Oscar-nominated Babe, Babe: Pig in the City was a gigantic box-office flop, at least in the U.S. Reviews were mixed to negative (mostly negative), with the notable exception of Siskel and Ebert, who both lavished the production with praise. Audiences stayed home in droves, as they say, and the picture was D.O.A. from the first weekend. Everyone seemed to feel that the movie was too dark and sinister, and, watching the film now, one is struck by the fact that director George “Mad Max” Miller  does indeed direct the action as if he were still doing The Road Warrior, with plenty of looming close-ups shot with a fish-eyed lens and a frenetic, restless camera. There are lots of weirdness-for-the-sake-of-weirdness touches, like the way that Mickey Rooney (who never speaks) always looks as if he was interrupted in the middle of dinner and forgot to wipe his mouth. The “big city” is positively fanciful, featuring the Statue of Liberty, the Eiffel Tower and the Sydney Opera House all in one town; it’s an overload of visual invention, unlike the placid, bucolic setting of the original Babe. And James Cromwell is almost MIA, showing up at only the beginning and the end.

But Babe: Pig in the City is hardly the nightmare that it’s been made out to be. Doesn’t anyone remember the frights in The Wizard of Oz, Willy Wonka, or most of the Disney classics? In the original Babe there is a scene where Farmer Hoggett aims a gun right into the pig’s face, intending to turn him into bacon; it’s still rather startling, so the more jarring moments in the sequel, as when Babe is chased by a snarling dog, shouldn’t be that surprising. And this is one sequel, that, unlike so many others, tries to do something entirely different from the original.


“…scattered reports of the sequel taking on a Fellini-esque quality that wouldn’t translate to the masses proved utterly groundless… Miller and his army of technicians and animal specialists invent crazy quilt contraptions that spin off in weird trajectories when set in motion.”–Leonard Klady, Variety (contemporaneous)

8 thoughts on “CAPSULE: BABE: PIG IN THE CITY (1998)”

  1. I like the pairing of reviews here – I think a “Babe: Pig in the City” and “Hard to be a God” would make a fine double feature.

    1. Aleksei German’s son is also a filmmaker; maybe he can work on a follow-up, “Hard to be on Vacation (the Greg Smalley Story)”.

  2. That’s exactly what I love about the site.

    You guys don’t put yourself above the films or the reader. There are opinions, sure. There are great weird movies, but there are also a lot of shitty weird movies, there are lots of just shitty movies in general. Also, a lot of great things out there. There’s no boundaries, there can be a movie aimed predominantly at children, but still be great and most importantly, weird.

    1. I’d agree with you for the most part. I tend to avoid Eaker’s reviews because I can never shake the feeling that he’s staunchly against anything that doesn’t fall in lockstep with whatever his ideas of counterculture and creativity are, but Smally, Edwards, and most of the guest reviewers seem to be coming from a much more positive, open-minded place. And that’s why I keep coming back and looking at this place beyond finding movie titles for a late-night watch.

  3. Ah, I remember this film. Vaguely. Mostly I just remember being confused. And wishing that the random choir of cats had gotten a little more screentime. I agree, though, it’s daring as a kids’ film, but it just doesn’t belong on the List.

    Also, people who call it excessively dark clearly don’t remember the grim parts of the first one very well. I think that opening scene gave me nightmares.

    1. Dick King-Smith’s books, whilst never on the same level (in terms of depth or richness) as other animal stories such as Call of the Wild, Watership Down or Bambi, could actually get quite dark and violent, and Babe is nothing compared to some of his other stuff, such as “The Mouse Butcher” (a sort of proto version of 1994’s “Felidae” only without the sex and swearing…speaking of which, shouldn’t Felidae be on this site?) or “The Fox Busters”, maybe the only kids book to feature a full-on massacre with a whole yard covered in blood (is it any wonder Cosgrove Hall ditched all that and just turned it into a zany Looney Tunes tribute act when they turned it into a cartoon series?)

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