I watched Babe: Pig in the City again last night. It is a wonderful film. Even better than the first one that is also wonderful in its own way.
My major problem with the original film is the ridiculous plot device of a secret code that makes all sheep talk to you, “Baa-ram-ewe . Baa-ram-ewe. To your breed, your fleece, your clan be true.” Oh my! I understand that it’s a children’s story, but still. It doesn’t ruin the film by any means, but it does make it something less than it could have been. Also the third act was weak with Rex running all the way back to the farm.
Pig in the City only uses “Baa-ram-ewe” once, and to good comedic effect: it doesn’t work on pit bulls (actually bull terriers). But the film still suffers from a weak third act. The banquet scene is far too busy; it is hard to know what is going on; and it all goes on for too long. I would have enjoyed more time with the zany cast of animal characters. More time could certainly have been spent with the break-out from the pound.
There are other things that people no doubt complain about. The plot is episodic, but I think it would have been less so if they had spent less time getting to the hotel and less time resolving the plot. Regardless, I think the writing does a good job of weaving a single plot line throughout, although it does get a bit muddled toward the end. Another potential complaint is that the story of the humans gets dumped for the whole of the second act. I tend to think this could have been dealt with by a tiny bit of cross cutting, and I don’t doubt that this was in the script. But in the end, how can humans compare with Ferdinand and Flealick?
Above all, the reason I prefer Pig in the City to Babe is that it has a better cast of characters. It also has standout scenes that the first film lacks. The most obvious is Babe’s saving of the Bull Terrier and the resulting situation where the mean dog enforces Babe’s egalitarian rules. But by far my favorite moment is when Thelonius insists upon dressing before escaping. In that moment, he is all of us. There is nothing eternal about our cultural habits, but we follow them because it is our way; we get meaning from them. This is paid off admirably by two short scenes. The first is when Thelonius is trailing behind as the animals are escaping through the hospital. A child recognizes him and says, “Hello Thelonius!” It is sweet: there are advantages to keeping up appearances. The second is at the end when we see Thelonius hand Esme Hoggett a laundry pin as the narrator says, “As for the Orangutan, he insisted on staying at the farmhouse… with Herself.”
And all was right in the universe, or at least our little part of it. Thank you, pig.
I also like how much higher the stakes are in the second film. It does make it a lot darker. A good example of this is when the chihuahua says, “My human tied me in a bag and throwed me in the water.” Wow! In a world where your human throwed you in the water, we need all the pigs we can get. But Babe-like pigs; not those horrible pigs who are always tormenting Shaun the Sheep.