Film Reviews

Remembrance of Pigs Past

This review is the first in a new series called “Remembrance of Films Past,” in which I will re-visit movies I watched as a child to see how terrible my instincts were. It’ll be just like the Nostalgia Critic ( but with lower production values.

The first movie in this series is Babe: Pig in the City, which I loathed as a child. Let’s see if the memory of this film is so unpleasant that I would gladly expunge it. Yeah, I just paraphrased Proust in this review of Babe: Pig in the City.  Because this blog wasn’t pretentious enough to begin with.

The Film:

Babe: Pig in the City

Where to Watch:

Buy/rent from Amazon, check out from your local library, etc.

The Premise:

After inadvertently leaving Farmer Hoggett with broken bones and head trauma, Babe goes to the city with Mrs. Hoggett to enter a sheep herding competition that will supposedly save the farm.

The Uncondensed Version:

After the events of Babe, Farmer Hoggett and Babe return home, greeted by the locals with pig empowerment signs like “PIGS R BEST,” “HURRAH PIG,” and “PIG OF THE YEAR.”

a group of people with balloons and congratulatory signs surrounds a man with a blue ribbon and a pig standing behind the cab of a truck
Wait–who’s driving the truck?

This scene is merely designed to contrast with the rest of the film, in which the mighty FALL. Babe accidentally drops a water pump on Farmer Hoggett’s head while he’s repairing the well in a scene that reminded me a bit of a similar scene in There Will Be Blood.

a man is lowered  by rope down a stone well
“I am an oilman, ladies and gentlemen.”

As a result, Mrs. Hoggett must take Babe to the sheep herding competition in Metropolis that will SAVE THE FARM, but not before the mice can sing “Non, Je Ne Regrette Rien.” SERIOUSLY. As Mrs. H and Babe leave, the sheep chant “save the farm,” the version of “baa ram ewe” reserved for times of recession.

Unfortunately, things go badly from the beginning of the trip. Mrs. H gets held at the airport under suspicion of smuggling drugs.  (The drug dog is named SNOOP.  Get it, get it?)  She is eventually released, only to end up staying with Babe in an extremely sketchy hotel.

Also staying in the hotel is a clown named FUGLY with his performing monkeys. One of the monkeys steals Mrs. H’s bag, so Babe follows him. Another one of the monkeys is named Thelonious (Monkey?), which I thought was POLONIUS for 75% of the movie. I became incredibly nervous any time he stood anywhere even remotely near a curtain.  I don’t want to see any monkeys get stabbed, no matter how morally ambiguous they are.

Babe basically gets kidnapped and has to perform as part of the clown’s show until he accidentally lights the entire set on fire to “Non, Je Ne Regrette Rien.” The clown DIES, leaving Babe and the monkeys with nowhere to go.

Meanwhile, Mrs. H gets arrested when she unintentionally incites a riot. I don’t know what the message is here with all of the inadvertent mishaps. Clumsy people are a menace to our society? The road to hell is paved with good intentions?

Anyway, since Babe and the monkeys (can this be someone’s band name please? Babe and the Monkeys?) have nowhere to go and nothing to eat, they steal food from dogs. Or, rather, Babe unknowingly leads the dogs on a really long chase while the monkeys steal their food. The chase ends with a bull terrier who was chasing Babe almost drowning, but Babe saves him. After this, all the animals feel the need to share their incredibly sad stories, including “My human tied me in a bag and throwed me in the water.”

Then Babe sings “If I Had Words to Make a Day for You” (thank GOD) and basically becomes their führer.

All of the animals live in the hotel now until this really long, heartbreaking scene in which everyone gets taken to the pound except Babe, Ferdie the duck (who manages to track down Babe), one of the monkeys, and a dog on wheels, who gets HIT BY A CAR.

a dog with wheels attached to its back legs lies motionless in a dark alley
That wheel just keeps spinning and spinning.

Naturally, there is a prison break in which Babe springs all of the animals from the pound.

Then, for reasons I don’t remember (I should’ve taken better notes), Mrs. H ruins a fancy gala by swinging from a chandelier wearing Fugly the Clown’s inflatable pants in order to save Babe and the others. I’m sorry, but I’m not watching this film again to figure out why this scene exists.

a woman in inflated balloon-like pants swings from a balcony as well-dressed onlookers react in shock

Everyone, including the monkeys, strays, and other misfits, moves back to the farm, which the narrator describes “in a place just a little left of the 20th century.” A place called…the Twilight Zone.

The bull terrier and a poodle have adorable mutts that I wish could exist in nature…and then the poodle runs away with another dog!

puppies with pink wigs play together in a field
I’ll take them all, please.

At least the film ends with Farmer Hoggett saying “That’ll do, Pig. That’ll do.”

Then you get to the ending song, “That’ll Do,” written by Randy Newman and performed by PETER GABRIEL.

Sample lyrics include:

“A kind and steady heart can make a gray sky blue,

And a task that seems impossible is quite possible for you.

A kind and steady heart is sure to see you through,

It may not seem like very much right now, it’ll do, it’ll do.”

The Critique:

Yeah, I still hate this movie. It’s really uneven, and just emotionally empty. There was a lot more slapstick-style humor than in Babe, most of which falls short.

On the other hand, some critics (including Roger Ebert) really liked this movie because it was much darker than the first movie. I’m not sure I accept that. There are some very dark moments in the film, but the original Babe had some distinctly bleak moments of its own. Remember that Babe was the only one of his family to escape the slaughterhouse because he was a runt? What about when all of Fly’s puppies were adopted by other people? And how sadistic that farm cat was??? For Christ’s sake, Maa DIED, for which BABE was blamed and nearly shot by Farmer Hoggett (spoilers spoilers spoilers). But these moments were balanced out by some really sweet moments between Babe, the other animals, and (obviously) Farmer Hoggett. Babe: Pig in the City is all about how all you need is a pure heart, blah blah blah. I’m sorry, but not even Peter Gabriel can make that message seem anything less than trite and cheesy.

The Rating:

Small Pink PantherSmall Pink PantherSmall Pink Panther3/5 Pink Panther heads

I think the sad truth is that Babe is way more adorable as a piglet. It’s weird how much hair he has as a grown pig.