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Babe: Pig in the City

Warning: This film may scar impressionable children for life. A joyless sequel to the bittersweet story of an orphaned piglet who finds his place in the world by herding sheep, it recalls grotesque, adult-oriented fables like CITY OF LOST CHILDREN and FLUKE far more than its own charming, delicately balanced predecessor. Australian director George Miller also wrote the sequel's original screenplay, steering it into profoundly unpleasant territory. Babe (voiced by E.G. Daily) causes an accident that cripples kindly Farmer Hoggett (James Cromwell, who, BABE Oscar nomination notwithstanding, makes what amounts to a cameo appearance), leaving his wife (Magda Szubanski) to run Hoggett Farm. She accepts an invitation to bring Babe to a fair whose generous appearance fee will pay the mortgage, but the pair wind up stranded in a creepy SRO for animals in some unfriendly uber-city (the view from their window includes the Sydney Opera House, the Statue of Liberty and the Eiffel Tower), and Mrs. Hoggett is swiftly arrested. The fellow guests include scary clown Fugly Floom (Mickey Rooney, but don't worry -- he dies) and his apes: a thieving capucine, a chimp family (Glenne Headly, Steven Wright and Nathan Kress/Myles Jeffrey), and grave, human-identified orangutan Thelonius (James Cosmo). Babe, after disgracing himself by setting a fire at a children's hospital, rescues a drowning pit bull (Stanley Ralph Ross) and becomes reluctant guru to a forlorn pack of hungry, friendless dogs and cats, who share heartbreaking stories of abandonment and abuse. Their presence at the hotel attracts the wrath of animal-hating neighbors (the black-clad animal control squad storming the hotel and rounding up terrified animals conjure images of Nazis taking away Jewish families), and precipitates an anxiety-producing visit to the pound. Though arguably a successful evocation of surreal animal Hell, this bleak, despairing film (its mercifully happy ending notwithstanding) is not the sequel BABE fans have been awaiting.