- The Washington Times - Saturday, August 5, 2006

Common Sense Media, a nonprofit group dedicated to improving the entertainment lives of families, provides reviews of the latest movies from a parenting perspective. For more reviews, click on commonsensemedia.org.

‘Barnyard: The Original Party Animals’

Rating: PG for some mild peril and rude humor.

Common Sense Media: Pause.

** (out of five stars)

Synopsis: A rehash of tired cliches and CGI effects.

Running time: 90 minutes

Common Sense note: Parents need to know that the “children” in this movie (Otis and his pals) aren’t exactly role models. They gamble, steal, drink, go on joyrides and say words meant as profanities. When some mischievous boys go out “cow-tipping” at night, Otis and his buddies take revenge by sneaking into one boy’s room, tipping him out of bed and then laughing at him. Crude scenes involve bodily functions. Also, the bulls in this movie are drawn with udders, a genetic impossibility unless you’re in a Salvador Dali painting.

Be aware that there are some tense moments when Otis’ father dies at the hands of murderous coyotes after his son ignores the elder cow’s wisdom and goes off to party.

Families can talk about how Otis and his pals should have acted. Were they right to go out partying when their elders told them not to do so? How soon can children start taking responsibility for their actions? Why is it important for children to listen to their parents? Would this movie have had a different outcome if Otis had acted responsibly from the beginning?

Common Sense review: The animals in the barnyard take a Vegas approach to life — i.e., what happens in the barnyard stays in the barnyard — or does it?

When the lights go out in the farmer’s house, that’s the animals’ cue to party. The barn is transformed instantly into a nightclub, complete with gambling, a bar, a rock band, dance floor and mechanical “man-ride.” Right in the middle of it is Otis (Kevin James), a carefree bull who parties like there’s no tomorrow.

Otis’ dad, Ben (Sam Elliott) and an old mule, Miles (Danny Glover), think he needs to be more discreet about the fact that animals are smarter than humans. Apparently, cows occupy the ruling class in the barn hierarchy, and Otis is supposed to inherit the leadership from his father. However, when Ben suddenly goes the way of all loving parents in family movies — he dies — Otis finds himself in charge of the barnyard. Will he grow up and be a leader? Or will he use his newfound power for more tricks and cowfoolery?

Voices include Courteney Cox as Daisy the cow, Andie MacDowell as Etta the hen, Tino Insana as Pig the pig, S. Scott Bullock as Eddie the Jersey cow and Wanda Sykes as Bessy the cow.

Compared to other CGI movies, the animation seems flat, and the humor is dated. Most of the jokes about humans’ ill-conceived notions of the animal world seem lifted from “Toy Story,” and the “father dies leaving the child in charge” story line is straight out of “The Lion King.”

Although this movie has a few funny moments (you can see them in the trailers), a little originality would have gone a long way.

Sexual content: Otis has designs on a pregnant cow. Also, the bulls are shaped creepily like linebackers, and they prance around with their udders (say what?) hanging out.

Language alert: “Oh, milk me” and other words construed as profanities.

Violence alert: Mean coyotes lurk nearby, threatening the animals and killing Otis’ dad. Also, cow-tipping and boy-tipping.

Commercialism alert: Pizza, cell phones, beer, cereal and household items are shown.

Social-behavior alert: Milk is portrayed as alcohol. (Cows are “drinking” in the car and outside the farmer’s window.) The farmer is shown drinking.

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