Reviews

Barnyard

By Garth Franklin

Cows are female, bulls are male and unfortunately at present there exists no surgical procedure to help bovines seeking the trans-gender route. It's a simple fact of nature, one that's obviously lost on the makers of "Barnyard" which stands as easily one of the more tedious films ever made in the computer-animated genre.

Taking the one note idea that farm animals get up to all sorts of craziness behind their owner's back, the confusion of male cows with udders instead of penises is getting a lot of publicity for one simple reason - the rest of the film is so inane that it's about the only thing you'll remember from the film in years to come.

Pre-packaged is the word of the day here, tired jokes about animal excrement and rebellious teens pepper a "Lion King"-lite story of a teenage male cow being forced to grow up. Like all those films there's a father figure (the gruff Sam Shepard) who quickly meets his demise, forcing the son to believe in his father's pop psychology advice to face off against those evil creatures that killed his dad - in this case a bunch of coyotes with a taste for ankles. The writers aren't even trying with the main story, so the hope is there's enough laughs to keep the pace up and kids interested.

Forget that. Yes, there's the odd cute moment of animals on surfboards performing death-defying stunts, partying at a makeshift barn nightclub, or driving recklessly along roads (hooves make for great steerage control). Yet the gags are all one-note and very easy humour. They're simply not very creative, often repeated throughout, and interspersed with far too long and useless musical numbers designed purely for padding purposes.

Segments and side characters ranging from stoner pizza delivery dudes, a Gladys from "Bewitched" style nosy neighbour, and a brattish school kid into cow tipping, come up multiple times and follow the exact patterns you'd expect. The comedy isn't the only element being mishandled or dropped, much of the drama is too. The female lead is made pregnant only so we can have an emotionally pandering finale. For a film that plays it so safe for pre-schoolers and politically correct, it goes into some surprisingly dark territory in regards to the coyotes.

There's attempts at sentimental romance subplots but a real hesitation to develop anything beyond giving that particular subplot lip service. It really just feels like a bunch of ideas were thrown in a blender and under-churned. Scenes come and go with little correlation to any story, characters are walking cliches and fun is nowhere to be found.

Even as a kids movie, it fails to live up to other standards. The computer animation is so basic and cheap that shows on Nickelodeon look like they have better budgets. Whilst some things like the coyotes and backgrounds look quite detailed, other farm animals seem almost plastic in skin tone and design. Score is all over the place and often awkwardly blending disparate tunes to fit the quickly shifting tone.

Finally, and aside from Shepard's baritone, the assorted voices are really just damn irritating - especially Kevin James as our hero who just won't shut the hell up. Even greats like Wanda Sykes feel like they're slumming it. Not good enough for even a rental, this "Barnyard" should be burned for fear of mad cow disease.

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