Babe the Sheep-pig (voiced by E.G. Daily) is now a hero of the farming community, but as he is resting on his laurels, tragedy strikes. Farmer Hoggett (James Cromwell) is trying to draw water out of a well when Babe falls in, causing the farmer serious injury when the water pump hits him. Now they are running out of money with the farmer debilitated, so Mrs Hoggett (Magda Szubanski) sees the only way out is to exhibit Babe at an agricultural show far away. Waving goodbye to Farmer Hoggett and the animals, they set off for the airport, but never reach the show - there's a big city in the way which ruins their plans...
Written by Judy Miller, Mark Lamprell and the director George Miller, this was the sequel to the surprise family hit of the nineties, Babe. However, where the first film had taken an idea of pleasing simplicity and novelty and made the most of it, the follow-up cluttered the narrative with more animals - a lot more animals - and frenetic chases and a darker tone that turned most of its potential audience off. In addition, Babe seemed to have lost his previous sense of purpose. As a result, the film flopped, but nevertheless had its champions who were convinced that this was a worthy successor to the first film, and contained enough originality and an important message of anthropomorphic humanism to make it worthwhile.
You know this is different to the first instalment when Farmer Hoggett has his accident, based around the old routine about the rope and the weight which sees the victim fall prey a number of times to the forces of gravity. Then, when Babe and the farmer's wife arrive at the city's airport to catch their next flight, a misunderstanding with a sniffer dog sees the woman strip searched on suspicion of drug smuggling, causing them to miss the plane and stranding them in the unfriendly city. They end up at a hotel which secretly caters to animals, the proprietor (Mary Stein) unwilling to let on to her nasty neighbours about the nature of the boarders lest the animals be captured.
Apparently working under the premise that the good times are better when the bad times are worse, events conspire to see the plucky Babe and Mrs Hoggett separated when she is arrested, leaving Babe as a reluctant player in the children's act of an elderly clown (Mickey Rooney). There's a powerful strain of urban paranoia running through the story, with the city dwellers and authorities an aggressive, mean bunch, causing the animals to be afraid to leave the safety of their hotel, and with good reason. When the chimps venture out looking for food, they take the much-maligned Babe with them, only to leave him at the mercy of a couple of vicious guard dogs.
Fortunately Babe's essential decency wins everyone over; if love doesn't exactly conquer all, a little kindness goes a long way. Yet the spectre of death hangs over these creatures: the clown's act ends in disaster, with the man suffering a heart attack and dying later in hospital. More than once, we are led to believe one of the animals have died, only for them to recover at the last moment - you see the disabled dog on wheels sent to heaven, then revived, causing you to wonder where the film makers' minds were. This mixture of serious themes, sentiment and slapstick is pretty strange, and although there are funny bits ("Do you have anything that'll fit me?"), the emotional scenes occasionally hit the mark, and the puppetry and effects are excellent, the resulting muddle looks like an uncertainty of approach - even ending in an anti-vivisection set up. Look at how many animals there are (including a cheeky monkey) and consider if they were just overdoing it. Still, at least the duck was back. Music by Nigel Westlake.
The nineties saw him offer medical drama Lorenzo's Oil (he was once a medical student) plus curious sequel Babe: Pig in the City and in the 2000s he enjoyed the international success of the animated Happy Feet and its sequel. In 2015 he successfully revived his most celebrated franchise in Mad Max: Fury Road. Not to be confused with the other Australian director George Miller.