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Barnyard (2006)

Barnyard: The Original Party Animals

What happens in the barn stays in the barn

Directed by:

Steve Oedekerk

Rating: 6/10

Running Time: 90 minutes

US Certificate: PG UK Certificate: PG

Country: United States

I remember watching animated movies when I was a child. The story was more important than the stars. That changed with Disney’s ‘Aladdin.’ Robin Williams’ Genie was such an integral part of its success that animated films became more about the actors than the characters.

Fortunately, many movies succeed despite that strategy. That’s because the actors remember it’s their job to make you forget their name and make you believe the character on screen.

For the most part, ‘Barnyard’ succeeds in this regard. You’ll immediately recognize the voice of Ben the Cow (Sam Elliott), but that’s because you’re supposed to. It’s humorous to hear a bovine with the voice of the National Cattlemen's Beef Association – “Beef. It’s what’s for dinner.” On the contrary, Bessy the Cow (Wanda Sykes) reminds you it’s a movie every time she speaks. The subtext of each line is “Listen to me, I’m Wanda Sykes.” Fortunately, she doesn’t say much.

‘Barnyard’ is based on the premise “When the cat’s away, the mice will play,” except in this movie you could say, “When the farmer’s away, the farm animals will walk and dance and order pizza.”

Ben is protector of the barnyard. His son, Otis the Cow (Kevin James), is a party animal (no pun intended) who has yet to learn about responsibility. When Ben tells Otis “A strong man stands up for himself; a stronger man stands up for others,” there’s no doubt that Otis will learn this slightly heavy-handed lesson by movie’s end and find love, Daisy the Cow (Courteney Cox), at the same time.

At times, ‘Barnyard’ dances on the fine line between homage and theft. It features a donkey that looks like Donkey from ‘Shrek;’ a ferret that looks like Sid from ‘Ice Age’; scenery that sparks memories of Pride Rock in ‘The Lion King,’ and moments that leave you thinking, “Didn’t Simba do that?”

Although ‘Barnyard’ begins predictably and ends predictably, there are surprises in between. It sets you up for the same ol’ talking animal gags and then gives you others that are entirely different.

In the end, ‘Barnyard’ is a movie meant for kids. While adults will recognize familiar clichés and stereotypes, the children won’t. They’ll enjoy ‘Barnyard’ for what it is, an entertaining family film.

It's Got: A cow singing Tom Petty, a rapping rat wearing bling and a rooster doing stand-up comedy

It Needs: An anatomy lesson, male cows don’t have udders.

Alternatives:

Animal Farm, High Noon, Madagascar, The Lion King

Summary

Unlike ‘The Lion King,’ ‘Barnyard’ doesn’t have the epic feel of an animated masterpiece. Despite that, it’s still better than the sum of its recycled parts.

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