Worth A Look: 8.16%
Pretty Bad: 16.33%
Total Crap: 44.9%
5 reviews, 19 user ratings
Let me get my biases out of the way. As a native of Kansas, it’s hard to look at California-born writer-director Steve Oedekerk’s vision of rural life without wincing. Having once lived in a home that was next door to an open field where cattle grazed, it was unnerving to watch a film, even a cartoon, with unisex udders. Around here we call male cows, bulls.Throughout “Barnyard: The Original Party Animals,” you sense that Oedekerk, the mastermind behind “Ace Ventura: When Nature Calls,” didn’t bother to learn much about the bucolic life and decided to rely on stale clichés.
"Made me appreciate the subtle artistry of “The Ant Bully.”"
As the plot unfolds, you can almost guess what previous animated hit that Oedekerk has decided to pilfer from.
In “Barnyard,” all of the animals speak English and use human tools but hide their talents the moment a homo sapien can see them (“Toy Story”). Before you can say “The Lion King,” a conflict unfolds between the farm’s leader Ben the cow (Sam Elliott) and his wayward son Otis (Kevin James).
Ben is serious about keeping the rest of the animals safe from a team of marauding coyotes led by Dag (David Koechner). Otis would rather play around with his pals. The younger cow quickly learns that he can’t party forever because he’s abruptly forced to take his father’s place.
With a predictable story that’s as fresh as mammoth milk, it’s hard to get worked up over whether Otis will mature quickly enough to fulfill his destiny.
For a movie that only runs 84 minutes, “Barnyard” has a surplus of dead spots. There are some long musical interludes that aren’t particularly interesting and tell us nothing more than barnyard animals love to boogie.
Unlike a typical Pixar or DreamWorks computer animated movie, you get a sense that the folks behind this one were happy to cut corners.
All of the characters, even the mammals, have a rubbery appearance that’s more fitting for a character in “Toy Story” than for something organic. Watch “Shrek 2” or “The Incredibles” again, and you’ll see that Oedekerk and his crew are well behind the curve when it comes to computer animation technique and design.
The voice cast isn’t particularly interesting either. In “Over the Hedge,” the voice actors were given roles that matched their personalities perfectly, and “The Incredibles” featured lesser known performers like Craig T. Nelson and NPR commentator Sarah Vowell, who fit their characters perfectly.
The actors doing voice duty here are familiar, but with the exception of Elliott, Wanda Sykes (who plays a feisty cow) and Danny Glover (who plays a wise donkey), nobody leaves much of an impression.
Until the credits roll, you’d never guess that Courtney Cox-Arquette (who’s a cow) or Andie MacDowell (a hen) were involved. It seems silly to hire a star when a lesser known voice actor might have done as well or better.
Elliott is a terrific actor (he’s better served in “Off the Map” or “Thank You for Smoking”), but his casting here is problematic. All his years as a pitchman for the beef industry make it hard not to look at all the bovine characters in the film and wonder if they’re for dinner.
In defense of the cast, Oedekerk doesn’t give his actors much to work with. The character traits are thin and not terribly interesting. You almost wonder if the performers have commercials they’d rather be doing.
Because Bug Bunny and Elmer Fudd’s adventures were so much fun, nobody bothered to complain that rabbits and people were the same size in Warner Bros. cartoons. Without an interesting story, logic gaps become more obvious and irritating.With “Barnyard,” the androgynous udders, as annoying as they can be, are about the only original thing to be found in the whole movie.
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originally posted: 08/04/06 14:30:59