I saw very few cartoon movies when I was little. However, I have made up for that over the last three years by taking my grandson to as many such movies as I possibly can. Not too long ago, I took him to see “Barnyard”, a movie that claims to explain what really happens down on the farm when the farmer isn’t watching. A computer-generated animated feature by director Steve Oedekerk of “Ace Ventura” and “Bruce Almighty” fame, this movie proposes that animals can do everything that humans can do including talking and walking upright. I thought it was a wonderful concept. Unfortunately, I simply didn’t find it all that funny and my grandson lost interest within the first 30 minutes.
There are some cute concept in the movie like the animals purchasing human contraband from the “gray market” run by gophers, turning the barn into a nightclub at night, and sneaking the neighbor’s car off for a joyride. These were all promising ideas that could have been downright hilarious had they been better executed.
To be fair, however, let me say that I’m comparing this film to similar movies that came out about the same time: “Over the Hedge,” “Cars,” and “Ice Age II” to name a few. In comparison to those films, this one does not stand up well. However, if you compare it across the board to similar movies of the past, you will likely find it a decent movie; just not a great one.
The story centers on Otis (voiced by Kevin James), a young cow whose father, Ben (voiced by Sam Elliott), is the respected leader of the barnyard. Ben is the barnyard hero. He keeps watch at night to protect the yard against coyotes, and dispenses fatherly advice like “A strong man stands up for himself. A stronger man stands up for others.” But Otis isn’t really that interested in what his father has to say. He is basically a party animal that is having way too much fun pulling off stupid stunts and practical jokes to pay attention to such drivel.
When the coyotes finally manage to get the better of Ben and he is killed, barnyard mayhem immediately ensues until Otis finally steps up to fill his father’s shoes. At first, it appears that he may not really be ready to take the lead. He spends too much time trying to woo Daisy (voiced by Courtney Cox), the pretty new cow on the farm. But when push comes to shove, Otis proves to be his father’s son.
“Barnyard” does give the audience a few laughs bolstered by the human antics of the animals. Jeffrey Garcia who voices the smart aleck Hispanic field mouse is hilariously funny. Wanda Sykes, who voices Bessy, Daisy’s cynical cow friend also has her moments of her own. Even Danny Glover, who voices Miles the Mule, a sage elder on the farm brings some genuine humor to the film. Oddly enough, the songs by Tom Petty and Peter Gabriel, as well as other artists, may be the major selling point for this movie. The are unexpectedly catchy and manage to elevate the soundtrack above the typical children’s film.
In truth, “Barnyard” is a little too manic and borders on downright creepy. I’m actually glad that my grandson didn’t pay close attention to most of the movie. Quite frankly, I found it just plain strange.
“Barnyard” is a Paramount Picture. It is rated PG for mild peril and rude humor.