October 29, 2006 -- “Barnyard: The Original Party Animals” is a relatively unfunny comedy about barnyard animals on a strange vegetarian farm. It is notable mainly for its anatomically incorrect portrayal of bulls with udders instead of penises and testicles. This makes for a sexually confusing situation in the cattle herd. There are other animals on the farm which seem very out of place. One animal, usually kept in a cage, seems to be something like a Tasmanian Devil. Another character, Freddy the Ferret (voice by Cam Clarke), is way too big to be a ferret, he's more the size of a badger or wolverine (also members of the ferret family).
The story follows a cow (a bull with udders) who likes to party. This cow, Otis (voice by Kevin James of “Hitch”) doesn't want the responsibility of guarding the farm animals against predators, a job his adopted father, Ben (voice by Sam Elliott of “We Were Soldiers”), has been doing for years. Otis suddenly finds himself thrust into a position of responsibility. When he comes up against a pack of vicious coyotes, his mettle is put to the test. He must decide if he is going to stand and fight, or run away. Complicating matters is a new cow (of the female variety) called Daisy (voice by Courtney Cox of “Scream”). She inspires Otis to be a better cow. She believes in him.
Otis is also helped by his barnyard friends, especially Pip (voice by Jeffrey Garcia), a mouse who despite his small size, has great courage. Other characters include the wise mule, (voice by Danny Glover of “Beloved”), Bessie the Cow (voice by Wanda Sykes of “My Super Ex-Girlfriend”). The menacing Dag the Coyote (David Koechner of “Snakes on a Plane”), Etta the Hen (Andie MacDowell of “Beauty Shop”) and Maddy the Chick (Madeline Lovejoy).
The idea of a vegetarian running a farm is strange, indeed. If he is not going to sell the eggs, and he is not going to sell the cattle or hogs for meat, just what are all the animals for? Maybe they are all pets. The farm does not seem to have any other cash crops, like grains or vegetables.
The story works well enough, and the characterizations are strong, but the story generates few laughs for either adults or children (both were in the audience when I saw the film). There are a few good entertainment in-jokes (like the wise guy Jersey cows), but the story drags until the big fight between the barnyard animals and the coyote pack. The elaborate fight scene works well. It is one of the few parts of the movie where something interesting happens. There is one amusing scene involving cow-tipping, but most of the jokes in the film are weak. Like director Steve Oedekerk's earlier film, “Kung Pow: Enter the Fist,” it is a thin comedy (but it isn't nearly as awful as “Kung Pow” was). The animation has a low-budget look to it as well. This film rates a C.
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