The ultimate Hollywood sin? Self-inflicted ‘franchiside.’ And while THE EXORCIST II/’77 holds as champ chump, this follow-up to BABE/’95 isn’t far behind. (BABE - cost $30 mill/Original Stateside Gross - $66.6 mill; BABE II - cost $80 mill/Original Stateside Gross - $18 mill.) Perhaps you’ve forgotten BABE, the endearing tale of an adopted pig who saves his bacon by learning to herd sheep, an Æsop Fable for our times, told with a seamless blend of trained animals, puppetry & animation techniques, it made for a volume-filled verisimilitude you could believe in. But something went terribly wrong with both the story and the story construction here. There’s little conviction to the darker tone as the farm goes broke and Babe seeks his fortune in the big city. George Miller, directing as well as producing, blinks at the story’s implications, sidestepping three or four fatalities with back-from-the-brink feints that come off as equally mean-spirited and sentimental. Disney killed off Bambi’s mom for a first act finale and Miller won’t even lose a goldfish? Yet, amid the stumbles, a couple of reels midway thru find all the abandoned animals of the city coming together co-op style, then fighting an impounding. Saint-Saens comes up on the soundtrack and you remember what an unexpected joy the first film was . . .briefly. Soon things retreat into chaos with an endless, overblown action-climax and a tacked-on happily-ever-after epilogue. Even the returning trio of singing mice can’t save this one.
WATCH THIS, NOT THAT: BABE.
SCREWY THOUGHT OF THE DAY: Miller reemerged with HAPPY FEET/’06. And damned if he didn’t franchiside all over again on HAPPY FEET II/’11.