*1/2 (out of 5)
August 4, 2006
Kevin James as OTIS THE COW
Courtney Cox as DAISY THE COW
Sam Elliot as BEN THE COW
Danny Glover as MILES THE MULE
Wanda Sykes as BESSY THE COW
Andie MacDowell as ETTA THE HEN
David Koechner as DAG THE COYOTE
Directed by: Steve Oederkerk
BY KEVIN CARR
Listen to Kevin’s radio review…
Something smelled about the film “Barnyard.”
Don’t worry. I’m not going to barrage you with a lot of jokes involving animals or snarky puns like “this was udderly terrible.” Let’s leave that to Joel Siegel.
But I will say that something stunk about this film. I could smell it coming from the first trailers. Sure, the boy-tipping joke was pretty funny in the original ads, but it became clear as I saw more and more about this film that this was going to be one of the few funny parts in the movie.
“Barnyard” is brought to us by the same comedic genius that made “Kung Pow: Enter the Fist.” Use that as your personal gauge about how good (or bad) this movie will be.
I don’t have anything personal against Steve Oederkerk. The guy has done some decent stuff, including “Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius” and the second “Ace Venture” movie. However, he only hits the mark about half the time. And when he’s off the mark, he’s waaaaaaay off the mark.
Perhaps if “Barnyard” had come out a few years ago, it would have seemed better. Back in the day when there were only one or two CGI films released a year, the excitement helped overcome any plot or character problems. However, “Barnyard” is the latest in a string of half a dozen CGI films this summer. I think the novelty has worn off, and this movie doesn’t have the plot or characters to keep it fresh.
It tells the story of a cow named Otis that loves to party. His father Ben is intent on protecting the herd from wandering coyotes. Why a cow must have this responsibility is beyond me, but there’s a lot to overcome in disbelief in this movie. When the coyotes kill Ben, Otis must learn to be responsible and protect the barnyard himself.
Much of the humor relies on being obnoxious. Apparently Oederkerk thinks that just making something louder makes it funnier. There are multiple misplaced music and dance numbers that look more like a reel made for computer animators than a part of a feature film.
This film is not without its funny moments, however. But the only problem I had with many of them is that they were rip-offs of old “Far Side” cartoons. I guess you can’t get too original with cows when Gary Larson already mined the subject into obscurity with his classic cartoon.
One of the anchors of a good CGI film (or any animated film, for that matter) is its voice cast. Unfortunately, while “Barnyard” sports a long list of name actors, only a few of them are recognizable in this context. Sam Elliot does a fine job as the stock western character of Ben, Otis’s father. Likewise, Danny Glover is pretty good as Miles the Mule.
However, the rest of the cast is either unrecognizable by their voce (like Andie MacDowell, Courtney Cox and the star of the film, Kevin James) or they are nothing special in the grand scheme of things. Wanda Sykes secures her place as the most overexposed person this summer (with her other guest spots in “Over the Hedge,” “Clerks II” and “My Super Ex-Girlfriend”). I’ve never found her that funny, and here she plays an only mildly funny cow that appears to be a lesbian protecting her pregnant heifer from other men.
In fact, the only surprising performance from the voice actors really comes from SNL alum David Koechner as the evil Dag the Coyote. Koechner, while funny, only manages to play his stock redneck character we’ve seen in “Anchorman,” “Thank You for Smoking” and “The Dukes of Hazzard.” However, Koechner manages to perform an incredible villain in “Barnyard.” Too bad the rest of the film couldn’t live up to his performance.
But the biggest problem I had with the film was the choice to put udders on the male cows. It’s bizarre and grotesque. And these aren’t just little udders. They are gargantuan, flapping in the breeze for all to see. I know it’s a cartoon, but this is just silly. It’d be like watching “Pirates of the Caribbean,” and noticing a nice set of breasts on Johnny Depp. It’s just plain weird.