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Laramie Movie Scope:
Babe: A Pig in the City

A unique film about an alternate universe

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by Robert Roten, Film Critic
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December 7, 1998 -- "Babe: A Pig in the City," is one of those rare films that transports viewers to another universe where dogs and cats talk and kindness is rewarded. It is a fragile, whimsical and enchanting film. It is also the most wholesome family entertainment I have seen in some time.

For those familiar with the first film, this one picks up where the other left off, with Babe and farmer Hoggett (James Cromwell) returning in triumph from Babe's championship sheep herding stint. This story, however, goes in an entirely different direction, as Hoggett only appears in a few scenes and the sheep are not a factor, either.

Hoggett becomes injured in an accident and the farm goes up for sale. Mrs. Hoggett (Magda Szubanski) decides to take Babe to a state fair for a sheep herding demonstration to collect a large appearance fee for the renowned pig. The money will be used to pay off the mortgage on the farm.

Mrs. Hoggett and the pig never make it to the fair. Instead, they go through an elaborate series of misadventures in a mythical big city that is a wild amalgamation of all big cities. Mrs. Hoggett winds up in jail and Babe is thrown in with a strange assortment of animals, including monkeys, some freewheeling chimpanzees, a civilized orangutan named Thelonius, dogs and Ferdinand the duck. One of the chimps, Bob Bopaluba, is a master of twisted phrases and illegal schemes.

Although there is a great deal of physical comedy in the film, it is really quite gentle in nature. Although some animals are put at risk in the film, none of them is harmed. The plot of the film is thin, but the characterizations are strong, led by Magda Szubanski, who does a fine job as the determined Mrs. Hoggett.

The animal characters are no less sharp, led by the kind-hearted Babe (voice by Elizabeth Daily, who also does voices for the Rugrats). Bob the chimp (voice by standup comic Steven Wright) has a way of mangling words and morals, while Ferdinand the duck is self-centered and cowardly. Thelonius is an aloof and stately Orangutan who sticks his neck out for nobody. The bull terrier (voice by Stanley Ralph Ross) is modeled after gruff crime boss roles popularized by Lawrence Tierney.

The scenes are filled with vivid colors and the special effects used to make the animal's mouths in synchronization with the words work very well. The animal trainers do a great job, as well as the animatronics riggers. There are also mice singing arias and Elvis Presley songs, a scene-stealing monkey, a cute dog with a set of wheels, a choir of cats and many other cute animals.

The animals are cute, but they can also be cruel and treacherous. The strange city that seems to be a cross between Los Angeles, New York and Venice is at once quaint and dangerous. It can be a hard place.

In the midst of this chaos, cruelty and savagery, Babe brings a calming influence with his kindness. The moral of the story is no less than the golden rule itself. You can't argue with that. This film rates a B.

Click here for links to places to buy this movie in video and/or DVD format, the soundtrack, books, even used videos, games and lots of other stuff. I suggest you shop at least two of these places before buying anything. Prices seem to vary continuously. For more information on this film, click on this link to The Internet Movie Database. Type in the name of the movie in the search box and press enter. You will be able to find background information on the film, the actors, and links to much more information.

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Copyright © 1998 Robert Roten. All rights reserved.
Reproduced with the permission of the copyright holder.
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Robert Roten can be reached via e-mail at my last name at lariat dot org. [Mailer button: image of letter and envelope]

(If you e-mail me with a question about this or any other movie or review, please mention the name of the movie you are asking the question about, otherwise I may have no way of knowing which film you are referring to)