This file was generated 2002-06-09 04:23 GMT. This movie's information hasn't changed since 2001-09-03.
Scott Ventura >> Movie Commentary >> June 1999 >> Babe: Pig in the City
How wondrous it is to watch a movie that contains so much fresh material. The movie was not laugh-out-loud funny for me, but it's still a wonderful example of the places that film can take us. There's nothing new about the talking animals, although there are plenty of new ones. The set pieces, most notably the swinging scene in the octagonal atrium, are superbly done and devoid of many cliches of the genre. When was the last time you saw a comedy that showed a pyramid of delicately stacked wine glasses that survived?
As you might expect from the title, there's a city in the movie. The set designers threw in recognizable elements from Sydney, Rio de Janeiro, New York, Venice, San Francisco, Los Angeles, and Paris. I imagine there are several more that I simply didn't pick up on. Actually, the city is almost certainly Las Vegas, which has copped elements from all over the world. The extras in the street crowd scene are all wearing only white, grey, and black, an interesting way of quickly conveying the impersonal attitudes of city folk. The city, interestingly enough, is called Metropolis, although not much is made of the fact. It certainly doesn't seem to be a Superman reference.
One of the earliest jokes in the movie is a reenactment of a classic urban legend. It's the one in which the builder trying to move bricks by pulley injures himself rather severely when things take a bizarre turn. That puts Farmer Hoggett, played so well by James Cromwell in the first movie, out of commission early, leaving Babe in the hands of Magda Szubanski. Szubanski is one of several cartoonish humans in the movie, along with the absurdly-shaped Mary Stein and an unintelligible Mickey Rooney. Since the movie is much more about the animals than the humans, it seems only right to imbue the animals with the most credibility. I don't mean to shortchange Szubanski's excellent work. She's hilarious as an earnest rustic trying to make sense of the strange new world she finds herself in.
Did you notice the elevator music? It's Girl from Ipanema, featured in the elevators of classics like The Blues Brothers.
The interface designers of the DVD probably thought they were being helpful by giving things icons. Unfortunately, the correlation of the icons to their meanings is often less than obvious. The help screen is happy to explain them, assuming you realize which icon is the help icon! I don't think it's labeled as such anywhere except on the help screen. The help screen is actually rather unhelpful, considering that it appears to have been dropped in from another disc with more features. Icons are provided for commentary tracks, making-of vignettes, interactive games, featurettes, and more. If I didn't know better, I'd expect these items on the disc if they show up in the help! Even worse, the visual cue for the current selection changes from menu to menu. In some, but not all, it's a ring around the icon. This leads to confusion on the screens where the icons aren't selectable or when green-lighting the icon, which is not meaningfully different from the icon's natural state, is used.
As far as extras, there are production notes (primarily concerning the selection of the animals), cast biographies, and three trailers (two for this movie, one for Babe). The texts tend to be hard on the eyes because of the white border around the letters. The selection between widescreen and letterbox must be made each time the film is started, a small annoyance. Actually, it's a larger annoyance. The audio (English and French are available) can't be changed while watching the movie. Thus, you need to take a trip through the menus, and even when you use the "return to movie" control, you must select the aspect ratio again.