I've never seen so many web browsers click off at one time! Man, my readership just dropped by an embarrassing percentage. This is worse than the time I revealed how much I like the Resident Evil movies. Hully Gee... It was a GIFT, Darn it!
Anyway... jerks... anyway, for those of you still here, Steve Oedekerk, who brung us Kung Pow (whether we wanted him to or not) has made a name for himself with the Corn Dog Comedy stylings from the Ace Ventura flicks to The Nutty Professor remakes to the Bruce and Evan Almighty movies to all those wacky "Thumb" flicks. No doubt his experience on such flicks as Thumb Wars, Bat Thumb, The GodThumb, Frankenthumb, The Blair Thumb and Thumbtanic has either prepared him for or interested him in directing one of the now ubiquitous and obligatory computer animated flicks.
And here it is: Barnyard: The Original Party Animals! I have to admit, kids, it's pretty darned funny. While this is certainly a mainstream and Kid Friendly flick (it was released by Nickelodeon and Paramount Pictures), this is also still a Steve Oedekerk movie, packed with the mindblowingly silly and tragically ludicrous flavors we've come to expect... and fear.
For example... for a full-of-bull movie that prominently features male cattle, there are no "Bulls" in this movie. There are Male and Female cows, all with Udders flapping around somewhere near their crotches as they stand upright. Standing upright is what they, and most of the characters, do for most of the film. Whereas eleven years ago, Pixar gave us Toy Story, a computer animated movie about toys who stand up and act just like humans when humans aren't around, Oedekerk now gives us Barnyard, a computer animated movie about Farm Animals who stand up and act just like humans when humans aren't around. While that sounds a little one note, it's actually pretty good, if maybe a little derivative.
Way out on a farm run by a four foot vegan (!) order is kept by a big, tough, male (!) cow (!) named Ben (and voiced by a big, tough, male actor named Sam Elliott). Harmony abounds on the farm, and partying ensues at the drop of a hoof, mainly because Ben's around. Unfortunately, Ben has a big, not-so-tough stepson (!) named Otis (Kevin James) who would rather party than follow in his paw's cloven foot prints. While Ben is standing guard against psychotic (and scary) Coyotes led by David Koechner's Dag and passing the time by playing a makeshift banjo and singing Tom Petty songs (amazingly, Elliott sounds almost exactly like Johnny Ca$h when he sings... Bravo!), the rest of the Farm Animals are holding a Barn Rave less Haystack than Woodstock. Okay, so it's hardly Frampton Comes Alive, but the gang is having fun, including the new cows on the block, a pregnant cow (actually a female) named Daisy (Courtney Cox) and her overprotective and bullish cow amiga (also actually a female) named... no joke... Bessy (Wanda Sykes).
Raving isn't all that goes on, either. We've got Cow Joy Rides, Cow Surfing (on a giant ice-cube), Cow Motorcycle Boosting, Human Taunting and "Boy Tipping". Sound like fun? It is (if you can get past the "Udders" thing).
On the other hand, there are also some scary and vicious moments surrounding attacking Coyotes, some cartoon-like violence against people (very mild, really) and yes... one murder, followed by a funeral scene. Strangely, this movie never feels too intense for kids (though you may want to think thrice about the littlest among you) and it all leads up to some smart and cool, yet subtle lessons.
Needless to say (remember, I did say "lessons") Otis is soon faced with growing up fast... too fast for his liking, and figuring out how to be a big kid when everything seems to be going to cow pies. Barnyard is definitely a hysterical comedy with more laugh hits than misses, but it can also be touching and sweet when it needs to be (though never heavy-handed).
On the other hand, at times, Barnyard feels like a series of sometimes original, sometimes borrowed scenes and sight gags laced together in an almost 52-card-pickup kind of way. Themes and imagery from The Lion King find their way into the film, and Toy Story is also an obvious influence here. But then, Barnyard isn't alone in its adoption of some of those flicks, now is it? Occasionally the comedy falls a bit flat and feels repetitive (how often can a joke about a cow doing a human thing work? More often than I'd expect, actually.)!
Where Oedekerk (who wrote, directed, produced and contributed various voices) goes right is in the casting (for one thing). Aside from the perfect portrayal by James and the amusingly serious Elliott role, Danny Glover is hilarious as the Male Mule (!) named Miles, Andie MacDowell's hen Etta is outshined only by her adorable chick chick named Maddy (Madeline Lovejoy) and Dom Irrera even brings us an off sides sheepdog named Duke, embarrassed to face his addiction to doing "Doggy Things".
While a pure CGI affair (Cell Animation is all but dead, no?), Oedekerk sacrifices the trend of photorealism for a truly silly and plastic looking character styling. However, that's not to say that Barnyard doesn't take full advantage of the technology that has brought it to life. Some of the action, party and fight scenes, as well as some of the simplest movements of the wind are incredible to look at! Though the cows, the pigs and even the dogs, for example, look like plastic toys come to life, those animals (and humans) with hair show some amazing animated follicle behavior.
All in all, Barnyard is very funny, and just what the Veterinarian ordered if you're looking for a completely Screwball (read: Oedekerk) comedy, no matter what age you are. Sure it can be predictable and a lot of it has been done before, but this is a solid, hilarious picture worth a glance. Three and One Half Stars out of Five for Barnyard: The Original Party Animals! Ah, well... fun is fun, but I've got to go take some pills, kids. I've just spent a half hour talking to my turtle, trying to convince him that I knew very well he could talk and communicate with me just fine, thank you very much. In response all he said was "Play some Frampton, dude!" Good thing I've got Frampton Comes Alive on vinyl, no? Sigh. See you in the next reel if you... you... feel like I do!
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