By now pretty well everyone, young or old, knows the story of Babe the sheep pig. Not a whole lot of films have been as popular and successful as Babe, and you could count on one hand all the sequels to those films that've lived up to the original - without using all your fingers. So no matter how much you want Babe: Pig In The City to be good, it's hard not to take a "hope for the best, expect the worst" approach - and it's a film that lives up to expectations far more than hopes.
The story follows on directly from the first film, as after Babe's triumph at the local show, life settles back to it's usual sedate pace at the Hoggett's farm until Farmer Hoggett (James Cromwell) is injured in a Babe-instigated well repair accident. It's up to Mrs Hoggett (Magda Szubanski) to keep things running, but when the bank sends the boys 'round to foreclose on the mortgage, she has to pack Babe up and take him to the city to try and save the farm. But the city's a pretty big place, and when Babe gets separated from his human he's left alone to deal with homeless pets, a monkey circus act, and some pretty savage guard dogs as he tries to help his new friends and save his home.
First, the good news: Babe: Pig In The City is never really boring, and the much-talked about 'darker' tone is nowhere near as bad as some have suggested. But apart from that, there's no denying that this just isn't up to the original's (admittedly high) standards. Okay, the film does skilfully transfer the original's fairy-tale feel to the big city and the effects are first rate, but the new characters are muddled, Babe spends most of the film doing nothing, the plot wanders aimlessly (the saving the farm angle is all but forgotten), and for the most part the laughs just aren't there. It's not a complete failure, but after this lacklustre effort, Babe's next starring role is probably going to be in your local Safeway's deli counter.
Anthony Morris(this review appeared in Forte#182)