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Babe: Pig In The City

review by Zach B.

 

Rated G

Starring James Cromwell, Magda Szubanski, Mickey Rooney and the voice of E.G. Daily as Babe

Running Time: 95 Minutes

Written by George Miller, Judy Morris and Mark Lamprell

Based on the characters created by Dick King-Smith

Directed by George Miller

 

Retail Price: 29.99

Features: Production Notes, Cast and Crew Bios, Theatrical Trailers, DVD-ROM: Weblinks, Screen Saver

Specs: 1.85:1 Anamorphic Widescreen, 1.33:1 Full Frame, 5.1 Dolby Digital English, 2.0 Dolby Surround English, 2.0 Dolby Surround French, English Captions, Chapter Search

Released around Thanksgiving 1998, Babe: Pig in the City was highly acclaimed by critics all over, even making several top ten lists. Universal was hoping for another success like the original Babe, which was the sleeper hit of August 1995, and which garnered seven Academy Award® nominations, including Best Picture (it only won for visual effects). Sadly though, the second Babe was a highly budgeted picture, and was killed by the competition, namely "The Waterboy" and "A Bug's Life". It even led to a few top execs at Universal Studios resigning.

With all this aside, hopefully the film will find a much better life on the home video market. If you enjoyed the original "Babe" and missed the sequel in theaters, it's a must rental, heck, it's even a good buy. George Miller, known for the Mad Max films and who co-adapted the original Babe helms this one, and he does an incredible job. The film is a lot darker than the original, and may scare the little ones (the film was originally PG, but to make it more family friendly, Universal trimmed it and it got a G), so parents beware.

The film follows the Hoggetts, owner of Babe, the famous sheep pig, encounter some money trouble after Mr. Hoggett has a really bad accident, and the farm is threatened to close down. Babe, along with Mrs. Hoggett, are offered to appear at a fair of sorts, and will be paid for their visit. Of course, on their way there, they encounter many hilarious adventures and pursuits. One thing leads to another, making the plot of this movie hard to describe, since I don't want to ruin it. Still, it's an excellent movie all around and is very entertaining.

Babe: Pig in the City is an excellent movie for kids and adults alike, and one of the rare sequels which at least matches up with the original, and surpasses it in some ways. It has laughs, it is entertaining and it has a lot of heart. The DVD is also pretty well done. It boats some near perfect sound and video, but is a bit lacking when it comes to the extras, which is pretty sad.

 

The film is presented in two aspect ratios: 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen and 1.33:1 full frame. The full frame option is a good inclusion on this disc, because the main purchasers of this disc are going to be families, and for the most part, families do prefer the full frame aspect ratio. Like most Universal transfers, this one is excellent and lives up to the Universal logo.

The 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen is really, really nice. This film is really visual, and has a ton of excellent and pretty things to look at, so the ability to see it all is very nice. As far as other things go, colors are really bold, they pop and stand out. I did not notice any artifacts, grain or any things which get in the way of transfers and watching the movie, which is a plus. The fleshtones are perfect as well. This transfer is top notch, and is near references quality. A noticeable scene is when Babe, and his master, Mrs. Hoggett arrive in the town they are staying in, which is a mix from famous worldwide cities. The site of this is perfect. Not only do you see the visual artistry, but it looks really clean and magnificent.

The full frame 1.33:1 ratio, as I said, is good for the family viewing audience. The transfer on this is also very nice, but of course, this being full frame, you do lose some of the really pretty things this movie has, namely, the scenery. Like the shot I mentioned early, when the pig and owner arrive, it is just sort of ruined. Still, the transfer is just as good as the anamorphic widescreen one, it's just that, being full frame, you lose some. As said though, this feature is for families mostly.

 

 

The sound mix is also incredible. Babe: Pig in the City features Dolby Digital 5.1 and Dolby Digital Surround. The film does have it's share of loud noises and aggressive parts, so this fits very well with it. An excellent transfer and excellent sound mix, who could ask for more?

The 5.1 Dolby Digital track is really stunning. Dialogue is used mainly in the front channels, but the sound effects are used for the rear and LFE .1. There are some really nice parts in the movie to show it all off. There is a scene where Babe's goose friend, Ferdinand, is flying with other birds, the flaps have this cool effect. There is a ruckus and brilliantly planned chase scene, which does feature a good amount of crashes and loud sounds. I could go on and on with this, but the more the movie goes on, the better the sounds do get, at least I think. Still, I don't want to ruin the movie.

There is also a Dolby Digital Surround track. Yes, it's not as good as the 5.1 track, but it's there, and does sound very good, just not as good as the 5.1.

 

This is where I sort of had my problem with this DVD. This film is really good, and for some of their top notch titles, Universal gives out some excellent features. They give it great sound, great transfer... but no worthwhile supplements. I guess this film was too much of a flop for them to give it treatment in this section which it highly deserves. Sure, it bombed, but it was loved by many. Oh well, at least there are a few things...

First off, there are some pretty extensive production notes. These notes are really interesting, and really did help me learn about the pre-production and actual production of the film. Nicely done.

Next, there is a section for cast and crew members (actually, it's for one crew member: director/co-writer George Miller). These are also nicely done. Some pretty extensive biographies and filmographies.

There are three trailers on the disc. Two for Babe: Pig in the City and one for the original Babe. The first Babe: Pig in the City trailer is in widescreen and has two channel sound. This is the teaser trailer. The transfer is a bit shaky at first, but not for long and the picture quality is really nice. The sound is also loud and clear too. The next Babe: Pig in the City trailer is the full one, and like the first one, has some excellent two channel audio and video. Finally, the original Babe trailer is also in widescreen and features two channel sound. Like the other two trailers, there is no exception: good transfer and good sound. On a side note, I found these trailers pretty enjoyable.

As far as DVD ROM features go, it is just a little bit above average. Yes, there are the usual Universal weblinks and such, but there is also a Babe screen saver, if you want to decorate your desktop with some images from the movie.

All in all, the features are average, which really disappointed me. Sure, the movie bombed, but it still is a very good movie. Universal knows the acclaim, heck, they post some all over the package. But what I would have liked to scene is a commentary from Miller, if not for him, I bet this movie would be another dreaded sequel. It is because of him and his fantastic direction the movie works so well. I also mentioned there was stuff cut from the movie, to get a G rating. Would it really hurt Universal to comply the cut scenes onto the disc? The movie was pretty dark as it is, but I would have liked to scene what made it darker.

On a side note, the menus on the disc are very nicely done. They truly capture the movie's theme. When you first pop the disc in, you'll get the logo, some music and a lot of flying balloons (which are featured in the movie). The main menu is a window (which is also part of the movie) divided into four sections: Chapter List, Bonus Materials, Language Selection and Play. The background of the main menu features a city, and a lot of traffic noise. When you click on in to the bonus part, you'll be transported with some nice effects, some nature sound, and a wood board, sort of like what Babe's farm home has. Language (and caption) selection features some nice, classy music and a balcony, done in a cool transition. The chapter list features a side of a house, with four divided sections, each show clips from the chapter, with some city noise. And of course, play plays the movie. These menus are really nice, and I think other studios should take notice. They perfectly reflect the movie and bring some life to the menus. Also, there is a section in English and French, sort of like a glossary to see what various functions and symbols on the DVD mean.

 

I heard Universal was planning a third Babe, but, I guarantee those plans were scrapped after this delightful sequel performed miserably at the box office. If you have never seen Babe: Pig in the City, and enjoyed the first one, most likely you'll love this one. Don't think it is a kiddie film: it has a lot of charm, heart, and is actually pretty dark, and will be enjoyed by all ages.

Hopefully this film will find a better life on the video shelf. With excellent picture quality, enjoyable animated menus and some amazing sound, Babe: Pig in the City is a near perfect presentation. However, the features are a bit lacking, and this film deserves way more. Some commentaries and deleted scenes would have been nice, but as far as everything goes, Babe: Pig in the City is a good purchase, and something for the library.

 

(4/5, NOT included in final score)

(4.5/5)

(4.5/5)

(2/5)

(3/5, NOT an average)

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