Maybe it’s the fur and wagging tails, the bristle-boar attitude, but somehow you want to save this suicidal squealer from its kamikaze fate.

A kids’ show and a sequel, a dog-and-pony promenade, three strikes and you’re out of there, but here’s the saving pitch: our piglet’s flight into the aching void, metaphors of loss and yearning multiplying in the blue; the light-shaft geometries, windows, doors, neon-lit canals, chiaroscuro conflations of Dickens and Blade Runner and Terry Gilliam’s Brazil; the porker shedding water in a prism spray of light, a goldfish flopping toward destiny in the shards of a broken bowl; the choreography of chases, every baroque detail a self-enclosed digression; the orangutan philosopher in his clerestory, brooding and melancholy, an opera phantom, a backlit Paris hunchback. Mr. Ed meets glorified Barnum & Bailey? Think rather Max Ernst and the surrealists and The Cameraman’s Revenge. We’re dealing with characters, not cute performing species, and unfortunately there’s a price to be paid: no squalling toddler will want to sit through this existential wrencher. Sorry Mad Max fans, but it’s George Miller’s masterpiece, maybe even the best commercial film of 1998. See it before it goes belly-up. With Magda Szubanski, James Cromwell, Mickey Rooney, and assorted animal voices; the hallucinatory set design’s by Roger Ford.

Bricktown Square, Chatham 14, Ford City, Gardens, Golf Glen, Lincoln Village, North Riverside, Water Tower, Webster Place. –Pat Graham

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): film still.