Barnyard is yet another computer animated movie about talking animals. By my count, there have been at least six in the last year, with several more scheduled to open in the coming months. Is Dr. Doolittle running Hollywood these days?
In this case, the story revolves around a cow named Otis (voiced by Kevin James) who would rather spend his days having fun instead of worrying about the coyotes that threaten to attack all the farm animals. This causes significant consternation to his father Ben (Sam Elliott), who has taken on the role of group protector. When the coyotes – led by Dag (David Koechner) – attack and kill Ben while he’s covering Otis’s guard shift, the younger cow has to quickly learn responsibility so he can prevent future massacres.
You know, the worst thing to be in an animated movie is a parent. Bambi’s mother, Nemo’s mother, Otis’s father – all dead meat. Have I mentioned Mrs. Dumbo?
Otis finds he’s less than comfortable in a leadership role, but his efforts certainly attract the attention of a new cow named Daisy (Courteney Cox), who encourages him to step up to the plate. Also offering support are Miles the mule (Danny Glover), Etta the hen (Andie MacDowell), and Bessie the cow (Wanda Sykes, who has apparently graduated from playing a skunk in May’s Over the Hedge). When the coyotes eventually return, Otis and crew are ready for them. Parents may object to the fact that, in the final confrontation, the heroes happily resort to violence to solve problems
There was something that really bothered me about Barnyard. All the cows have udders – even the male ones. In real life, only female cows have udders. What kind of sick, alternate cow universe does this movie take place in anyway?
Unlike most other recent animated movies, there’s no attempt to make the animals look real here. They’re more stylized. Actually, they all look like rubber squeak toys. I kind of liked that different approach because, for better or for worse, it felt different from all the other animated animal movies we’ve seen recently. There are some moments of humor that I found enjoyable as well. A scene where Otis gets revenge on a young cow-tipper is particularly clever.
Unfortunately, “Barnyard” tries too hard to be hip. Rather than telling a simple story, it throws in a lot of needless mayhem in an attempt to avoid seeming too kid-centered. You get cows driving cars, cows riding motorcycles, multiple musical scenes showing the animals partying it up in the barn, and so on. These things generally have nothing to do with the story of Otis’s burgeoning sense of personal (bovine?) responsibility. Instead, it seems as though writer/director Steve Oedekerk (Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius) doesn’t want to be accused of making a kids’ movie, and he tries to distract us from the fact that he has. It’s like the film wants you to know that, despite the PG rating and the Nickelodeon branding, it’s cool, darn it! Well guess what? Barnyard is not as cool as it thinks it is. All the extraneous stuff quickly becomes laborious to sit through.
Summer is a time full of animated movies, and this year has been no different. Despite some scattered pleasures, the creatures of Barnyard ultimately get their butts kicked by Cars and Monster House and even The Ant Bully.
( 1/2 out of four)
Barnyard is rated PG for some mild peril and rude humor. The running time is 1 hour and 30 minutes.
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