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Movie Review: Barnyard

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In Barnyard, an irresponsible party animal – that animal being a cow – has to step up and lead his farm when the former leader dies. Will he rise to the occasion? The plot thickens…

I suppose it is wrong to apply logic to an animated movie headlining anthropomorphic animals, especially one aimed squarely at kids. But the rules of the Barnyard universe don't make sense. For one thing, this farm is a happy place where nobody apparently gets ground up or abused and it's run by a vegan farmer. Okay, but if that is the case, why does he keep a really fat pig and some other animals around that would serve no purpose apart from lunch? How do the animals hide all the gizmos that enable them to turn the barn into a rollicking disco within a minute? How could milk be the cows' favourite drink? Wouldn't that be like people drinking their own… let's not finish that thought.

And why are there many more male cows around than females, when the reality would be reversed? Most importantly: why do all the male cows have udders? Seeing these sway in motion never stops being disturbing, especially considering the male factor. Imagine men sporting breasts throughout a movie aimed at children.

There are also problems with the story being told; too much time is wasted on scenes that don't advance the plot or that do serve this purpose but in a clunky way. Some characters remain so sketchy that we can't really care about them, in particular the love interest. There are a few sexually tinted jokes in here that kids will likely miss, but the story as a whole is not that sophisticated. It tries to be a bit adult by featuring a death, but this scene has been oddly sanitised. The animal supposedly dies from a violent battle, but when he keels over, there are no scratches or blood anywhere.

At the end, even the intended moral derails. It is supposed to be a strong man stands up for himself, a stronger man stands up for others. But the way in which he stands up for those others ultimately doesn't show leadership and seems pretty stupid. Thankfully the back-up moral kicks in at the last moment: united we stand, divided we fall. All in all, the movie has a scattering of good jokes thrown into an uneven script that, like its hero, needed more discipline.

Barnyard, 2006, 90 min. USA/Germany. Director/Writer: Steve Oedekerk. Starring (voices): Kevin James, Courteney Cox, Sam Elliott.

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