Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Barnyard: The Original Party Animals (review)

What happens when it’s lights out at the farmer’s house? Title tells all in Barnyard: The Original Party Animals, the third and youngest-skewed animated movie hitting theaters in three weeks.

Here’s the secret: When the humans snooze, the cows, pigs, dogs, mice, horses, chickens, lambs and the rest turn the barn into an impromptu roadhouse, complete with a country band and, oddly enough, a dancehall reggae rat with major bling and attitude. There’s also a pool table, a craps table and a full alcohol bar. These animals dance and flirt and get all liquored up on milk and honey.

Juvenile delinquent Otis (Kevin James) even helps his pals the Jersey Cows hotwire a car, go on a joyride and wreak creative revenge on a bratty human kid who delights in cow tipping. And Otis, before he’s suddenly forced to grow up, spends his days making cannonballs in the water, golfing, and watching a football game through a neighbor’s window. He also mocks the postman, reverting back to cow posture every time the poor mail carrier turns around to look.

All of this is plenty of good, clean silliness, particularly if you’re under eight years old. But then writer-director Steve Oedekerk (Kung Pow: Enter the Fist, Thumb Wars: The Phantom Cuticle) gets serious, injecting the funny business with teachable moments about chucking his party-animal lifestyle, being a leader, and accepting adult responsibilities, etc. Bummer.

Ben (Sam Elliott) constantly asks his young son, Otis, to leave behind childish things, and the kid finally does, in a plot maneuver straight out of The Lion King. With the help of his friends, he defuses the threat of attack by the snarling, fangs-bearing coyotes. And he gains an insta-family, by way of the cute, pregnant Daisy (Courteney Cox).

Important biology lessons are imparted, too, for the kids: The boy bulls and the girl cows all have udders. Hey, wait a minute ...

(This review will appear in a slightly altered form in newspapers in Florida and Las Vegas)

No comments: