After the overwhelming success of the first Babe, a sequel was certainly guaranteed. Since the original author Dick King-Smith never produced a sequel to his original book 'The Sheep Pig, it was up to director George Miller to craft the story in any way he saw fit. Three years later Babe: Pig In The City was released to a mostly confused audience.
After an accident at the farm finds Farmer Hoggett (James Cromwell) injured and unable to work, the realities of mortgages and bills dawns on the farm leading to financial difficulty. When the nasty bank decides to foreclose on the farm, it's up to Hoggett's plucky wife Esmerelda (Magda Szubanski) to raise some funds.
13 years on, I still cannot understand why Miller chose to move the franchise into a dark and brooding corner, filled with none of the joy that permeated the original. Instead we have entirely mean spirited and somewhat bizarre characters, completely uprooted from the farm setting of the first.
It's not a comfortable movie experience and despite its family friendly rating, completely misjudges both its target audience and the qualities of the original which were so readily embraced by children and adults alike.
In itself it's not a good film, but it's not entirely terrible either. I guess my biggest issue with the film is that the script doesn't feel like a Babe film. If it was called Random Farm Animals Go To Town; I probably wouldn't have hated it so much.
Don't get me wrong, this film does have its moments and it does have its fans (including Roger Ebert who declared it "more magical than the original"), but the reality is this film sunk any hope of continuing the franchise and failed to generate back its expenses. It's a shame too because handled correctly, there could have been a lot of life in the series. Maybe there will be a franchise reboot some day in the future?
Babe: Pig In The City is presented in a full screen aspect ratio of 1.85:1 (its original aspect ratio), encoded with VC-1 compression.
The sequel fares slightly better than the original, likely owing to higher production values and more streamlined digital effects. The photography for the most part eschews the bright and bold colours of the farm and embraces darkness which exacerbates the dark overtones of the films plot.
The transfer is reasonably sharp, but it's clear the transfer has not benefited from any recent massaging. True to standard Universal behaviour, there are hints of edge enhancement and DNR applied to the transfer, but neither as intrusive as they are on its predecessors transfer.
Overall, a reasonable transfer that won't blow any ones socks off.
The main audio track is encoded in DTS HD Master Audio at 24 bits.
Unlike the original Babe, Pig In The City features a fairly rounded audio mix which translates nicely in this lossless presentation. The advancement of digital technology three years on means that audio sync issues with lip movement aren't a problem (nor for the human characters either). There is more scope for surround usage, even if many of the opportunities aren't entirely capitalized on.
Nigel Westlake returns to score this sequel and although it's not a classic like the original, it's an appropriate and fitting match with the visuals.
Overall, a reasonably good mix, but like the video transfer, nothing to get too excited about.
Just like the first Babe, Universal haven't included any bonus features here. Whilst the original DVD only included a theatrical trailer and some scant production notes, it's somewhat disappointing that not only were no new extra features produced, but they didn't even attempt to chuck the electronic press kit or the trailer on the disc so it had at least something. Again, disappointing.