Directed by: Steve Oedekerk
Written by:Steve Oedekerk
Starring: Kevin James, Courteney Cox, Sam Elliott, Danny Glover, Wanda Sykes, Andie MacDowell
Released: September 21, 2006
Grade: B-

I started reviewing movies in 1996.  I saw every Australian cinema release that year (some not until they reached the video store shelf) and in total, there were 3 animated films – The Adventures Of Pinocchio, The Hunchback Of Notre Dame and Balto.  Times have changed so much in the past 10 years that I now find myself with the choice of 3 animated films in the same week!

The September 2006 school holidays see the release of The Wild, The Ant Bully and Barnyard.  My first preference was to see Barnyard.  I’ve long been a fan of comic writer Gary Larson and his Far Side cartoons.  It takes a warped sense of humour to full appreciate them but I guess I fit the mould.  Barnyard has no connection with Gary Larson or the Far Side but there’s common ground because they both about animals who party like humans.

Unfortunately, the jokes in Barnyard are vastly inferior to those of Larson.  Writer-director Steve Oedekerk has tried to throw in some adult wit to appease an older audience but there’s just not enough.  When you break it down, this film will be enjoyed mostly by children.  I know this is how it should be for a family flick but having seen great films such as Shrek, Toy Story and The Incredibles, it’s hard not to feel a little under whelmed.

Set on a farm, Barnyard makes us believe that when humans aren’t around, animals act like you and me.  They can talk, play practical jokes and throw wild parties.  The biggest contributor to the fun is a cow named Otis.  His dad wants him to settle down and be more responsible but Otis can’t help himself – he just loves having a good time.  When a group of coyotes threaten to eat some of the farm’s residents, things change dramatically.  Otis is forced to take a leadership role and must conjure up a way to help protect everyone.

The credits don’t feature any huge Hollywood stars but many will make out the voices of Kevin James, Courteney Cox, Danny Glover and Wanda Sykes.  The stand out voice belongs to the distinctive and always recognisable Sam Elliott (as Otis’s father).

Not that I’m complaining but with the glut of animated films that are being release nowadays, why is it that so many are about animals?  The Wild, The Ant Bully and Barnyard come hot on the heels of films like Chicken Little 2, Ice Age 2 and Over The Hedge (all released in 2006).  It’s becoming harder to differentiate between them and I sure hope the future of animation is much more original.