It would be tempting to dismiss a movie like Barnyard sight-unseen. For one thing, it is one of many computer-animated cartoons that have clogged the multiplex this year, and it doesn't offer the vroom-vroom adrenaline rush of Cars, the spooky thrills of Monster House, or the tiny-animal view of the world of The Ant Bully or Over the Hedge. What's more, it features a cast of farm animals, and thus belongs to a genre that has, in recent years, produced nothing more remarkable than Disney's last hand-drawn flop, Home on the Range. And on top of everything else, the marketing campaign doesn't really give you any hint as to what the story is about.
Apparently, the movie's full title is "Barnyard: The Original Party Animals," and at first glance, the film does look every bit as trivial as you'd expect. The film's central gag seems to have been ripped from an old Far Side cartoon, though there is a hint of Toy Story in it, too: Cows, chickens, and all the other creatures are just as human as the rest of us, and they like to socialize and hold meetings when the farmer's asleep or away on a trip—but they play dumb again as soon as anyone looks. That's the premise, and you could easily be forgiven for thinking that the movie will do little more than (pardon the expression) milk this one joke for an hour and a half.
However, it turns out that the film—written and directed by Steve Oedekerk, whose last flick, the martial-arts spoof Kung Pow: Enter the Fist, also featured a cow of unusual talents—is a little more serious than that. There is death, and there is birth, and there are fearsome villains, and if this movie brings any previous cartoon to mind, it actually bears a striking resemblance to The Lion King, of all ...1