In this movie, the cows are boys. They have big pink udders and manly male voices. In fact, head cow Ben has the manliest, malest, deepest voice imaginable, that of quintessential cowpoke Sam Elliott. Our hero, Otis has the voice of Kevin James. But there are some girl cows, too, Daisy (Courtney Cox), who is pregnant, and her friend and Bessy (Wanda Sykes). And, just to make things more confusing, there’s a bull off somplace, too.
It isn’t like they’re trying to make some sort of point about gender here or there’s some punchline about it. It’s just that the people who made this movie don’t care or think we won’t notice.
I blame computers for this. It used to take as long as seven years to make an animated feature film, with all those individual cells to be lovingly hand painted. So there was a sort of market reality helping to make sure that the scripts really merited that attention. All of a sudden there is software making just about any computer into a mini-Pixar and agents who tell their star clients they can be in the next Shrek. So we get a lot of mediocre films with meticulously detailed fur and feathers and leaves and sunsets and vague and generic stories and characters.
And we get junky animated movies like this one: uncomfortably interspersed with a lot of slapstick and cornpone humor is a cynically added plot line that’s a little bit The Lion King a little bit Henry IV.
Ben, a strong, wise leader has a son, Otis, who loves pleasure and partying. When Ben is killed, Otis feels responsible and unworthy but rises to the challenge of protecting his friends from the predatory coyotes.
If it was just jokes like a cow shouting “MAN-a-bunga!,” riding a mechanical man-shaped bronco, and a bling-wearing rapping rat, it might be silly fun for kids. But the scary coyotes, the sad death of a parent, and the weird wooing of a pregnant (girl) cow make it uncomfortably awkward. The cynical superficiality of the way the more serious material is presented makes it inappropriate for younger kids and unworthy of older ones.
Parents should know that this movie has some peril and violence. Coyotes attack the barnyard animals. A character is mauled. There is a sad death of a parent and a description of other sad losses. Characters use some crude language and there is some potty humor. The cows get drunk on milk and a man reaches for a six-pack of beer. There are diverse characters, but some stereotyping of the females. And there are some references to killing animals for food, which may disturb some viewers.
Families who see this movie should talk about the way parents feel when a baby is born and what it means to stand up for others. They should also talk about the way we sometimes blame ourselves when bad things happen and how we learn to take responsibility for our actions. They may enjoy talking about the ways the animals in this movie imitate human behavior.
Families who enjoy this movie will also enjoy Home on the Range and The Ant Bully.