Arthur Hoggett is injured within the first few minutes of this movie and is MIA for the rest of it. This turns out not to be so bad after all—at least, not for the audience. Because now, Esme gets to take center stage and have her own movie with the little pig. And that’s great because she is a bubbly, fun character. She’s lively, feisty, motherly, aggressive, honest, righteous, a little gullible, and sweet. She sets out with Babe to save the farm from the bank but unfortunately, they never even reach their destination—and all the action plays out in a strange city where they’re stranded and forced to find a place to stay.
Babe gets mixed up with a variety of city animals, some much more pleasant than others, and through all of their escapades, scary, sad, or otherwise, he ultimately winds up teaching the whole lot of them the lessons about simple kindness and courage that we know Babe is already famous for. He brings everyone together with his cute piggy power and by the end, heals both the hurting farm back home and the worlds of those living in the cold and dangerous city. And for those willing to look, the messages of this whimsical, strange film go even deeper.
There are far fewer human characters than animals, but they too are well worth meeting. Esme befriends the slightly eccentric young woman who owns the only hotel around this whole insensitive city that welcomes animals. She’s a thin, nervous, timid girl with a tender heart, who cares for her mysterious Uncle Fugly (in the Big Five personality types, I figure her for a definite RLOAN and Esme likely an SLUAI.) All we really know about *him* is that he has a troupe of performing monkeys and he entertains ill children as a clown—he also has a speech problem and his niece is the only one who can understand his mumbles. Kind of like Kenny. (I half expect someone to say to Babe, “OMG! You killed Fugly! You ——-!”) His death comes before we find out much more, but it is a pretty pivotal event. BTW, I’ve noticed so many errors in these reviews from people who obviously saw the film once, didn’t pay careful enough attention, and forgot or messed up details. Like, why is there a question of whether Fugly dies or not–don’t you remember his niece saying “…my Uncle Fugly on his deathbed?” There ya go.
At any rate, the film only has one true villain—Hortense, the nasty lady who lives across the street from the hotel and is responsible for having all the strays Babe’s brought in for sanctuary taken away in a very cruel manner. The landlady had tried to create a safe haven for animals and friends, but ultimately found that she could not do that in this cutthroat city. Of course, the finale is a heroic rescue scene in which everyone does their part. It involves Esme bouncing around for quite some time and ruining a very fancy dinner party in Fugly’s old inflatable costume, which is the only thing she can wear after her own dress has been destroyed by former chaos. Among many, many other things, Babe saves two newborn chimpanzees and earns the respect of an old, embittered orangutan who ends up transferring his loyalty to Fugly, onto Esme.
For all of the darkness this movie’s accused of, it has a happy ending if I ever saw one. By the end, Esme and the landlady have clearly bonded; they work out a deal for the future that is perfect for both of them. They rent out the hotel (and it becomes the loud and obnoxious Dancelands, which should please Hortense even more than living across from a menagerie of vacationing animals). The money saves the Hoggett farm. All of the animals, from the monkeys to the poor assortment of down and out, needy strays who showed up to take advantage of Babe’s hospitality to the landlady’s pets to the random hotel animals who I guess have just been abandoned by their people and now need to be placed, move to the countryside and take up with the farm animals (at least for a while.) Miss Floom, the hotel landlady, now has nowhere to go-but Esme isn’t about to leave her all alone. She brings her home and, I gather, practically adopts her as well, on the peaceful farm–a place to which she is infinitely better suited. From the ending I gather that she’s now living either with or near Esme and Arthur, filling the role of the sort of daughter they never had (given how distant and disconnected the Hoggetts are from their own child in the first film, and what a wretched brat their granddaughter is.) Reading such things into the movie makes me appreciate it all the more; as different as it is from its predecessor, it enriches it a great deal.
I have to say that Babe: Pig in the City is one of the finest sequels I’ve ever watched. I get new things out of it on every single viewing.