|Starring:||Kevin James, Sam Elliott, David Koechner, and Courtney Cox|
Bovines are mammals. This would mean that both male and female bovines have some kind of mammary glands. But there is a big difference! Growing up on a farm, I can testify that cows are the ones with the udders and bulls don’t really have them. They have other things down there but an udder that appears to be capable of producing milk? No way!
That’s why I grew more and more uncomfortable while watching “Barnyard: The Original Party Animals” with my 2 and a half year old. While the film held her attention more than “Cars,” the adult portion of the audience was not so thrilled. In addition, to the odd presence of an utter on the boy cows (called “bulls” or if they’ve been fixed “steers”), there is a scene in which the younger bulls go out on the town joyriding in a stolen car the whole time drinking milk in an manner that would suggest inebriation. Drinking and driving in a kids movie, you say! The next thing you’ll be telling me is that Mel Gibson does it too, and rants and raves about the Jewish people.
The story of “Barnyard” has potential. The farm animals party together all night long concealing their human like characteristics from the humans during the day. The partying is pretty hardy. The barn is converted in almost Transformer fashion into a road house saloon with a stage, a bar, a mechanical human bucking bronco, and lots of drinking, gambling, and carousing. Of course, while the festive activities have the illusion of an adults only affair, the mood is light and playful. The animals perform on the stage, singing songs and dancing up a storm. And that part is a lot of fun. My two and a half year old and her same aged friend stood up out of their seat and moved and hummed along.
But the “Barnyard” plot isn’t all fun and games. The farm animals are governed by father figure bull named Ben (the voice of the ubiquitous Sam Elliott). Ben’s adopted son is Otis (the voice talents of Kevin James). Ben’s relationship with Otis is a little strange because, at one point, Ben jokingly calls Otis his daughter, and given the presence of a feminine udder on Otis’ stomach, this wouldn’t be unbelievable. Clearly, however, Otis is intended to be male because he carries on a Platonic romance with a new but very pregnant cow named Daisy (Courtney Cox). Otis is an irresponsible teenager but one that it very well-liked by the other farm animals who all seem to resent the tyrannical rule of Ben.
Now, Ben is the farm’s protector and leader who keeps the human’s from finding out the animals secret—that they are really party animals at night. Since he’s voiced by Sam Elliott, everything Ben says has a measured amount of authority and even profundity to it. As the ruler, Ben is forced to remind the animals that they must be very careful lest their true abilities be exposed. Of course, the story doesn’t explain why that would be a big deal. Perhaps, if the farmer were to find out that the animals liked to party at night, the entire fabric of our universe would be torn, but that’s another movie.
As the protector of the farm, Ben also does battle occasionally with the evil Coyotes, lead by the vicious Dag (voiced by David Koechner). Parents be warned, the Coyotes are scary creatures that seriously want to eat the chickens and anything else that stands in their way. In time, Ben will fall prey to the Coyotes overwhelming numbers leaving Otis alone to fill Ben’s big shoes. The change over from the Ben administration to an Otis one is abrupt. But given that the film’s target audience is young children, the movie’s 90 minute total running time will be welcomed by parents. My daughter gets restless after a half an hour or so, and “Barnyard” actually kept her attention longer than “Cars” which clocked at a hefty 116 minutes and that’s not counting the movie trailers. I heard other parents justifiably complain that the movie trailers and the movie was just too much causing early departures from the theater when their children got tired of just sitting quietly and watching. Come to think of it, my daughter never just sits quietly and watches anything.
Anyway, “Barnyard” is cute but kind of freaked me out—why it’s a film as strange as udders on bull. Udderly bizarre!