- Pig in the City
As its title suggests,
George Miller's sequel to his surprise hit "Babe" takes the
porcine shepherd to the big city to put on a demonstration of his mutton-moving
Babe, and the farmer's
wife, do make it to the city, but circumstances prevent them from attending
the show. Instead, they are separated and left to their own devices, forced
to sink or swim in the city's alien environment. The plot follows Babe,
with farmer Hoggett's wife (indeed, all of the human actors) relegated
to a supporting role.
And this is fine:
it's the pig's story anyway and the filmmakers have a lot of movie magic
up their sleeves to amaze the audience.
Along the way, the
pig changes the lives (and the society) of the creatures with which he
comes into contact, leading to a happy ending that saves his home and
the lives and ways of life of innumerable creatures great and small.
Okay, that's a pretty
simplistic overview of the plot, but we don't want to ruin what story
there is for you.
As a movie, "B-PITC"
doesn't come close to recreating the original's feel. In fact, for the
first half hour of the film, we found ourselves restlessly hoping the
movie would end soon. About
the time Babe saves the life of a drowning dog, however, the film kicks
into gear and the remaining hour is far more enjoyable - though the story
peters out before the credits roll, deteriorating into mindless (though
pretty looking) slapstick.
Not that we don't
like slapstick, mind you, but there's a part of this movie (in which Babe
becomes the de facto "Godfather" to the collected menagerie),
that shows a lot of potential and it's a shame the potential isn't met.
While the story leaves
something to be desired (the whole "saving the farm" motif is
contrived and the story would work just as well if Babe merely went to
the city for the exhibition anyway, then got lost), "B-PITC"
is worth catching because of its outstanding technical wizardry.
According to the production
notes accompanying the DVD, some 799 animals were used in the production
and it's amazing how director Miller (who brought us the "Mad Max"
trilogy, among other things) has gotten these critters to act.
We kid you not: these animals deserve some kind of award for their performances,
in which they're actually playing out human roles in animal bodies. They
have an entire society and "pecking order" (no pun intended)
into which the introduction of Babe throws a very large monkeywrench (put
Is there an Academy
Award for best performance by a Beast?
fantasy setting (everything is stylized, and visually stunning) is beautifully
realized through great sets and sound and a lovely use of digital effects.
Special effects also make the animals talk, with realistically moving
mouths (or beaks, or whatever!). The animals' voices are also cast and
One cannot fault this
film's production values. In fact, while waiting for the story, we found
ourselves constantly asking ourselves "How did they pull this off?"
It's too bad the script doesn't match the artistry of the rest of the
As a DVD, "Babe,
Pig in the City" is an above average example. Picture and Dolby Digital
audio are outstanding. Liner notes are minimal, but this is offset by
a generous set of production notes on the disc itself. Once you get through
the ponderous animated menus, you'll also find chapter stops, a decent
set of cast & filmmaker bios/filmographies and a pair of trailers
for this film and one for the original "Babe." If you have a
DVD-ROM drive, you can even set up a "Babe" screen saver, though
we resisted the temptation.
A real plus is that
the movie is offered in both widescreen and pan and scan versions, on
the same side of the disc. This is a feature we wish would be available
on every DVD (though we can live with one version per side, too, as long
as they're legibly labelled). You choose which version to watch from the
onscreen menu. As usual, we prefer widescreen, which shows the movie in
the way the director envisioned it, but it's nice to see audiences given
the choice to embrace or eschew those black bars at the top and bottom
of the screen.
So as much as "Babe,
Pig in the City" may not live up to its hype or its potential, it's
well worth seeing anyway - as an example of Hollywood (well, Sydney, Australia)
Babe - Pig in the
City, from Universal Home Video
95 minutes, color, in widescreen and "full screen" formats
Starring Babe and a "Noah's Ark" cast, along with Magda Szubanski,
MIckey Rooney and James Cromwell
Produced by George Miller, Doug Mitchell, Bill Milled, written by George
Miller, Judy Morris, Mark Lamprell,
Directed by George Miller
is a Blue-crowned conure who gets the starring role in a flick that's
part "road movie" with a healthy dose of Michigan J. Frog (the
singing frog of "Looney Tunes" fame) thrown in for good measure.
Paulie not only talks
(his voice is provided by actor Jay Mohr), he makes sense - but he also
chooses when and to whom he's going to talk. And, like so many of us,
he has a problem with his beak getting him into trouble when he mouths
off at the wrong time.
The movie is mostly
a flashback that tells the story of how the parrot got to where he is
"today." It begins with Paulie
being discovered in a research institution - and telling his life's story
to the one person who gives him any positive attention.
Paulie recounts his
life from the time he was living happily with a little girl named Marie,
from whom he's separated against both their wills. His life flies through
one adventure after another as he searches for the lost Marie, and along
the way he manages to touch the lives of many humans he meets (including
Gena Rowlands, Tony Shalhoub, Cheech Marin, and others) - and being touched
by theirs. He finally gets taken back to where he and Marie once lived,
but of course the family has moved on... to the other side of the country.
So da boid takes off
on his Cross-America trek. Naturally, he finally meets Marie again, but
not before a lot of time has passed and water has gone under the bridge.
DVD is presented in both widescreen and pan and scan versions, which is
as it should be. Unfortunately, the labelling around the spindle is very
small and hard to read; it would have been better to put "widescreen"
in one color and "Full Frame" in another, but such is not the
Liner notes aren't
bad: the inner sleeve has a short production feature about the film's
genesis, and you also get a list of the 16 chapters on the disc. That's
about it for extras, though, besides fairly minimal production notes and
the theatrical trailer/cast/crew bios we've come to expect.
Picture quality is
excellent, and the Dolby Digital sound is first rate as well. We'd like
to see more extras, but what can you do?
isn't likely to go down in history as a classic, but it's good family
entertainment and that's unusual in this day and age. In fact, though
on the surface the concept sounds pretty trite, the movie goes beyond
that formula and is actually a pretty good flick, all things considered.
Paulie, from DreamWorks
92 minutes, color, in widescreen and "full screen" formats
Starring Gena Rowlands, "Paulie," Tony Shalhoub, Cheech Marin
Produced by Mark Gordon, Gary Levinson, Allison Lyon Segan
Written by Laurie Craig, Directed by John Roberts
Rhythm, Lots of Blues
is the DVD release of an NBC miniseries "docudrama" about the
careers of Motown's top-rated guy group, The Temptations. Director Alan
Arkush, writers Robert Johnson and Kevin Arcadie, along with the energetic
and likeable cast, have done a really good job of letting the audience
get to know the people behind the PR. assuming this is an accurate portrayal.
The story is based
on the book "Temptations" by Otis Williams (via writer Patricia
Romanowski), so perhaps it isn't surprising that Williams, who according
to the movie founded the group, is treated with kid gloves. Most of the
group is treated that way, however, with the possible exception of lead
singer David Ruffin (who's portrayed as a dark figure who never saw a
white line he didn't like).
Don't get us wrong;
this isn't a whitewash of the Temptations' story. It actually comes off
as an honest and sometimes loving portrait of this supergroup, yet one
that isn't afraid to show the warts. In fact, by the time you're finished
the approximately three hours of this film, you're amazed that the group
even survived the trials and tribulations its individual members endured.
takes you through the entire history of the the group, from Otis Williams'
perspective, beginning in his high school days and ending with the death
of his longtime bud and bass singer Melvin Franklin. It's lovingly made,
and captures the eras it covers very well. Performances, including the
necessary lip synching, are first rate, as are the costumes, sets, sound,
etc. They've also done a terrific job of recreating the periods through
which the film moves, as well as many of the group's most famous songs.
The scene depicting the group recording "Papa Was A Rolling Stone"
(gee, that Jagger fellow gets around!) is remarkablly well done; it not
only gives you an excellent cover of the song, it advances the plot at
the same time.
The "full screen"
picture quality is great, though you can forget about any real Dolby Digital
surround sound. The DVD package claims Dolby Surround, and I suppose it
is to a certain extent, but there's little if any center channel information
and even less surround. That said, however, the overall audio quality
is terrific and the songs sound very good indeed.
Disc extras are virtually
non-existent beyond chapter stops (and, thoughtfully, direct links to
the songs) and some liner notes, so this is definitely not a real collector's
We didn't go into
this as Temptations fans - and probably still aren't, though we like some
of their songs. This is a very enjoyable film, however, and we recommend
it highly. It's energetic and makes a wonderful time capsule of the 1960's/70's
Motown scene. It's also very musical, and features great human drama.
From Artisan Entertainment
Full screen, approximately
Starring Terron Brooks, Christian Payton, Charles Malik Whitfield, DB
Woodside, Obba Babatunde, Jenifer Lewis, Alan Rosenberg, and Leon
Produced by Jay Benson, Teleplay by Robert Johnson and Kevin Arcadie,
from the book "Temptations" by Otis Williams with Patricia Romanowski
Directed by Alan Arkush
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