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Monday, July 16, 2012

Disneyear: Home on the Range (2004)

Alright folks, confession time. When I promised I would do Disneyear, Home on the Range was one of two films that I wanted to see the least. In fact, I remember seeing the trailer when it first came out at age 13 and seeing stuff in it like cows doing kung-fu, a lot of pointless fart and burp jokes, and really, really lame puns throughout the thing in less than 2 minutes. Yeah, even at that age, I kind of wanted to skip it. All the bad reviews it got didn't really hep my opinion either. Hell, even the biggest Disney fans I know don't really like this film. Oh, joy... Turn the clock forward 8 years later and I sat down and watched it for the first time just for this review. Let's just say my accusations were mostly correct. I pretty much got what I thought I was going to get from this. I also heard that back before this was released that this was going to be Disney's last hand-drawn feature. I'll get into that later, but let's see of Disney really should have just put this film to pasture. (Last pun. Promise!)

Rosanne Barr is a cow. Yeah, I'd call that ideal casting too, but let's keep moving. She gets sold to another farm called Patch of Heaven because her old place became bankrupt. She is greeted by two other cows named Mrs. Calloway (Judi Dench) and Grace (Jennifer Tilly) and the rest of the colorful characters only yo find her new home is being foreclosed. Maggie (Barr's character) first gets an idea to enter some of the farm animals in a county fair but needs to chat with the sheriff's horse Buck (Cuba Gooding Jr.) to give them more time. But a change of plans happens when Maggie hears that the reward money for the capture of a cattle rustler named Alameda Slim (Randy Quaid), who steals cows by hypnotizing them with his yodeling, is enough to save their farm. They of course catch Slim and save the farm.

Now let me make this clear: I know that I can't expect every film out there to be a masterpiece. I understand that animation isn't the easiest thing to do. And I know that even when Disney does comedies they do have potential if done right. But with every film I watch, I expect to see some effort. I didn't get that when I saw Home on the Range. Instead, I got what felt like a phoned-in and kind of annoying kiddie film. I didn't laugh that much. I didn't feel for of most of the characters (I found most of them kind of annoying, actually...), and nothing really caught my attention. So yeah, I didn't really care for it.

I'll give the film some credit though. The animators seemed to be the only people that even tried with this film. Even if they knew they were going to lose their jobs after this, they still tried their best to make it look good. And to be fair, some of these backgrounds are kind of nice. They remind me a lot of some of the 50's Disney shorts like Pecos Bill and A Cowboy Needs a Horse. And the only character I kind of remotely laughed at was Jennifer Tilly as Grace. She actually has a few good lines in this movie. 

I'll give you a hint: she's the blonde!
Aside from that, there's not that much else to praise. The plot was ridiculous, the jokes were lame, the songs are mostly forgettable (except for that first one. That one plays in my head from time to time. It's actually a nice little tune.) and seem like they were there just o be there, the characters are rather black and white, and the villain is one of the lamest I've seen. Again, we have the greedy archetype that just wants money and land. He accomplishes this by yodeling and  it apparently hypnotizes cattle. This makes for one of the most wtf moments in Disney history, considering I grew up with Pink Elephants and Heffalumps and Woozles. You know what? You just need to see it to believe it! The song's stupid, but it's got some... interesting visuals.

But the worst part of it is that this is was originally planned to be the final hand drawn Disney film. The idea that the studio that gave us Fantasia, Beauty and the BeastThe Lion King and so on, the studio that created feature animation, would close out on something like this... is rather disappointing. And a lot of good animators where laid off after this was released because the Disney executives thought that only computer-animated films where getting all the attention, thus they think that's the only way an animated film is so good (which is a bullshit theory, by the way!). But we know better. It doesn't matter how a film is animated. What matters is that the film has a wonderful, timeless story with engaging characters. That's why all of the best of Disney films and most Pixar films are so endearing, even to this day. This has little to none of that. Thank goodness for the Princess and the Frog years later...

...Funny, right?
In the end, Home on the Range is definitely one of the weaker Disney efforts. I just think it's a rather stupid, obnoxious, and pointless film. I hate calling some movies "kiddie-flicks" because I know that kids are much smarter than we give them credit for and deserve the best films possible. This movie sadly only seemed to target kids because aside from a pretty decent cast (apart from Rosanne) and some appealing design choices, little about it appeals to adults (to me at least). Young kids will likely get the most of this movie. But the target audience should never be the indicator of quality. But like I say with every movie: if you happen to like this movie, cool. Keep liking it. It's just not for me. If you ask me, I'd tell you to give it a pass. On the bright side, it's not as terrible as the next film I'm reviewing...


lee said...

I have not seen this yet, but want to see and draw my conclusions, feather imagine Disney making movies like this.

Chris Sig said... I the only one who actually likes this movie? :/ As you say, it was fun learning how much research the crew members put into creating the western landscape, even looking back to the classic Disney shorts of the same local for inspiration. It may not be on the same level of humour as Emperor's New Groove, but it's still good fun, and I'd watch it more than once for nostalgic purposes.
And also, the inclusion of the Goofy Heimlich Scream. That has to earn half a star, surely? ;)

Just a matter of opinion though, which I'm sure you'll get round to eventually, I find the film after this to be a poor Disney movie. Just sayin'.

top cat james said...

Chris, I like it.

Like "Cars" (the first film, not the sequel), this movie receives a copious amount of knee-jerk derision that I believe is unwarranted. I appreciate Jus watching and at least giving it a chance-most have never done that much and just pile on to follow the crowd.
Personally, I think "Treasure Planet" is much worse. Never have made it all the way through that one.

Justin Smith said...

Hey Chris & top cat.

To be fair, I did watch this all the way through, like every movie I reviewed so far. There's also a few things I did mention I liked about this film, like the backgrounds, Grace's character, and I do actually like the song "Little Patch of Heaven". I just didn't like the rest of it that much. And if you like this film, nothing's wrong with that.