"Barnyard" is a lighthearted tale centering around Otis, a carefree party cow, who enjoys singing, dancing and playing tricks on humans. Unlike his father Ben, the respected patriarch of the farm, and Miles, the wise old mule, Otis is unconcerned about keeping the animals' humanlike talents a secret. But when suddenly put in the position...
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"Barnyard" is a lighthearted tale centering around Otis, a carefree party cow, who enjoys singing, dancing and playing tricks on humans. Unlike his father Ben, the respected patriarch of the farm, and Miles, the wise old mule, Otis is unconcerned about keeping the animals' humanlike talents a secret. But when suddenly put in the position of responsibility, the "udderly" irresponsible cow finds the courage to be a leader.
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Barnyard seems like it might be fun. Cows acting like humans? Get out! That's hilarious! But really, it's not. It's a one-note premise that falls flat after about 10 minutes.
Barnyard reminds me of a classic Far Side comic strip from Gary Larson, in which there's a bunch of cows in a field near a road, standing around on two legs, smoking cigarettes, chatting with one another. One of them suddenly yells, “CAR!” and they drop on all fours and act like, well, cows, as the car drives by. Once the car is gone, they stand back up again and resume their activities. Funny, right? For a comic strip. To concoct a whole movie around the idea, however, you might be pushing it. And so we have Barnyard. The cows—along with the hens, the goats, pigs, horses, et. al.—walk on two legs and conduct themselves in a humanly fashion when the farmer is away. They even party hardy in the barn-turned-speakeasy once the sun goes down. Of course, to keep the story going, Barnyard throws in a father-son conflict, with evil, pillaging coyotes as the villains. Whatever. The cows are still standing in the end.
The list of big talent lending their vocals this time around also fail to inspire. Comedian Kevin James voices the main cow, Otis, the “original party animal” who could care less about anything else but having fun. Gruff veteran Sam Elliot plays his dad, Ben, the strong leader of the farm who tries to teach his son how to care for the other animals. Yawn. Let's see, there's also Friends' Courteney Cox as a lovely she cow; Wanda Sykes as her wisecracking friend (does she do anything else but wisecrack?); Danny Glover as a wise old mule (yes, this is what he's been reduced to); and Andie MacDowell as a mother hen. A real mother hen. Don't even ask about Wild Mike.
And don't even get me started on the fact ALL the bovines have udders, regardless of gender. Is Otis a bull trapped in a cow's body? Of course, as I'm obsessing over this rather glaring error in animal realism, I have to stop myself, realizing I'm watching a movie about talking farm animals, livin' life large as quasi-humans. Sigh. Writer/director Steve Oedekerk—Jim Carrey's go-to screenwriter, having penned Bruce Almighty and both Ace Venturas—also has Kung Pow: Enter the Fist under his belt. Yes, he knows a bit about comedy, but his comic sensibilities obviously run very broad. In other words, there are no subtle inside remarks aimed at the adults. To Oedekerk's credit, there are some moments of hilarity, especially when Otis and a bunch of “Jersey” thug cows go for a joy ride. But it's fleeting. It might be time to take a break from this glut of cutesy CGI animation.
Hollywood.com rated this film 1 1/2 stars.
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