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By Michael Ferraro | August 8, 2006

Since the first appearance of the first Barnyard trailer, humans everywhere were scratching their heads at the site of udders on a cow which seemed very much male. Internet message boards on various cinema websites then blew up with debates about the issue. The cows in the film are indeed male in every sense of the form. They are voiced by male actors and very much exude male personalities. So why do they have udders? Perhaps this isn’t a debate you should be having with yourself or your company. You should instead ponder the fact that you, for some reason, chose to see a film written and directed by Steve Oedekerk.

It’s not like he hasn’t dealt with cows before either. He also made Kung Pow which, if memory serves correctly, features a fighting cow. For someone with so much experience with our dairy and steak friends, you’d think he would know these little things. The women cows have udders too, so he did do that right at least. You almost can’t help yourself to look away from them either. They are the center of almost every frame, bouncing and jiggling about. It’s perhaps the most perplexing direction choice executed on screen in some time… but we press on.

Otis the cow is a party animal (literally) living his life rebelliously against his father’s hopes. He spends most of his time caring only about having fun instead of worrying about the rest of the barnyard animals who can’t stick up for themselves against a pack of angry coyotes. When his father dies, the members of the farm look up to him to be their new leader, even though he wants no part of the big responsibility.

Otis learns to deal with the dilemma after a while and runs the barnyard with a sort of reckless ability. The most enjoyable elements of the film are found here as we watch a group of cows steal a car to chase after a cow-tipping boy to deliver some him a plate of well-deserved karma. A police chase even ensues which is sure to bring about laughter in the audience (as it did to many of the little tykes in the screening I attended) but soon after, it goes back to its melodramatic state.

The soundtrack mainly consists of one song being played over and over, sung by cast member Sam Elliott. It’s a cover of Tom Petty’s “Don’t Back Down” and while it may fit the material lyrically, the actual song itself sounds as if an actual cow was indeed singing it.

Barnyard isn’t a complete waste of time, it’s just too familiar. We can praise Oedekerk for making an animated feature where the characters and backgrounds still resemble animation instead of real life. If only we haven’t seen countless animated films involving talking animals disguising themselves from humans prior to now, this film wouldn’t feel so much like we’re charting on familiar waters. Its like a generic Chicken Run only without the planned escape, brilliant humor, and gender correct anatomy on each of the animals.

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