Leonard Cohen: Bird on a Wire
Palmer's film is that rare concert doc that isn't for established fans only.
The first hazard for the returning hero is fame.
So we are assured by the narrator with the opening line of "Babe: Pig in the City." And what is true of heroes is even more true of sequels. The original "Babe" was an astonishment, an unheralded family movie from Australia that was embraced and loved and nominated for an Oscar as best picture. Can the sequel possibly live up to it? It can, and does, and in many ways is more magical than the original. "Babe" (1995) was a film in which everything led up to the big sheepherding contest, in which a pig that worked like a dog turned out to be the best sheep-pig of them all. "Babe: Pig in the City" is not so plot-bound, although it has the required assortment of villains, chases and close calls. It is more of a wonderment, lolling in its enchanting images--original, delightful and funny.
It doesn't make any of the mistakes it could have. It doesn't focus more on the human characters--it focuses on them less, and there are more animals on the screen. It doesn't recycle the first story. It introduces many new characters. It outdoes itself with the sets and special effects that make up "the city." And it is still literate, humane and wicked. George Miller, who produced, directed and co-wrote the film, has improved and extended the ideas in "Babe: Pig in the City," instead of being content to copy them.
The movie begins with Babe returning in triumph to the farm with his sheep dog trophy. Alas, he soon falls into the well, setting in motion a calamitous chain of events that ends with Farmer Hoggett (James Cromwell) laid up in bed, and Mrs. Hoggett (Magda Szubanski) forced to exhibit Babe at a state fair to save the farm from foreclosure. Alas, again, Babe and Mrs. Hoggett miss their connecting flight (she is busted on suspicion of drug possession--that merry, apple-cheeked dumpling of a lady). And they are homeless in the cruel city, where hotels sniff at pigs.