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Home on the Range
2004 - PG - 76 Mins.
Director: Will Finn, John Sanford
Written By: Will Finn, John Sanford
Starring: Roseanne Barr, Judi Dench, Cuba Gooding, Jr., Steve Buscemi, Jennifer Tilly, Randy Quaid, David Burnham, Ja'Net DuBois, Gregory Jbara
Review by: Joseph Kastner
   
It’s the end of the trail! After nearly eighty years of loyal traditionally animated service, the Walt Disney Company has decided to call it quits, at least for the foreseeable future. You might be asking, “Why now? Why not years ago?” … First off, this isn’t the first time that the staple that made the Walt Disney Company what it is today has faced an almost certain death. In 1986, Disney Feature Animation Studio was on its way out the door with The Black Cauldron and The Great Mouse Detective underperforming at the box office and leaving the talented artists little hope … That’s until new management came in, cleaned things up, and, with the help of Roy Disney, brought the animation unit back to its former glory with such hits as The Little Mermaid, Beauty & the Beast, Aladdin, and The Lion King. Yep, that Michael Eisner sure knew what he was doing … Who would have thought that the man who kicked started animation up again at Disney would be the one to kill it? That’s the word of the day folks … business. With computer animated features clearly outranking traditional ones, its just common business sense. But one has to wonder, with both traditional animation and Pixar out of the picture, what is Eisner thinking? … If he’s doing that at all.

The story follows a group of cows out to track down a criminal in order to collect the reward money to save their farm from being auctioned off to the highest bidder. Maggie is one head strong woman. She’s rude, crude, and let’s everyone know about it because she’s doesn’t give a hoot about what they say. She would rule the west … if she wasn’t a cow. Unfortunately for her, Maggie’s former home was auctioned off after the notorious Alameda Slim took off with their prized cow herd and left the owners with next to nothing. And just when things begin to look on the way with Maggie finding a new happy home at Patch of Heaven dairy farm, the bank declares foreclosure on the farm, leaving the owner three days to pay off the $750 in order to keep the farm. Unwilling to lose another home, Maggie leads a small group consisting of Mrs. Calloway and Grace, the other two bovine residents of the farm, to search for the cow thief but they aren’t the only after the larcenist. There’s also Buck, a horse with high aspirations but too much enthusiasm to back it up, and Rico, the mysterious bounty hunter who has a dark secret up his sleeve, as well. In the end, it’s an all out of for truth, justice, and the bovine way! The story for Home on the Range is another prime example of a plot that looks interesting on paper but clearly doesn’t go anywhere once it is projected onto the big screen. The problem is that there is no emotional investment in the characters. Granted this is a children’s film and it’s not intended to be rocket-science or anything like that but one can make the argument that this is a family film and if the adults don’t get anything out of it, who’s to say that this isn’t anything more then a modest diversion.

What’s becoming more of a rare oddity is the use of big name stars in animated features to drive movie-goers and though none of the cast of Home on the Range is necessarily going to have people lining outside the door in giddy anticipation, they are well-known … just how well-known depends on who you talk to. Roseanne Barr, famous for her hit television show Roseanne and more recently for her two cancelled TV programs, headlines the cast as Maggie the cow (Is there any use in inserting a joke here? All the good ones seem to have been used up). Here you have to be wondering what the cast director was thinking when they picked her up? The loud, obnoxious, and crude Roseanne was bad enough but a PG-rated version of her is even worse, if that can be imagined just from this description. Sure the kids may get a chuckle here and there from boorish antics but then so what? Cuba Gooding, Jr. voices the over ambitious Buck the horse but once again the audience is given a character they really don’t care about. Buck is treated mostly as a joke with no clear sense of the justice system or what it takes to be a hero. If there was more of that in him, maybe we’d care a little more every time he seems to fail but we don’t. The only real highlight in the voice cast, at least from a more mature perspective, would have to be Steve Buscemi, who makes a slight appearance voicing a pint-size partner of Alameda Slim. Why is it that this man seems to work no matter where he is placed?

Overall, Home on the Range is a disappointing and undeserving conclusion to the end of Walt Disney traditional animation and only showcases further evidence to why the genre is heading to the grave in the first place. How can traditional 2-D animation compete with the likes of Pixar with trap-holes like this? Not just on the level of visual graphics but at the story and character development levels as well. With Range, the audience is thrown head first into the plot and rushed to a predictable and dispassionate conclusion with no real emotional investment placed with the characters or the actions they take within the course of the film. Even the villain is a pathetic show … Yodeling? Who’s the genius that thought that brilliant idea up? This isn’t to say that all of Home on the Range is a pointless effort. The musical score as well as the songs are enjoyable highlights but, as with most other films, if the only amusement you find is the music then save your money and buy the soundtrack. All in all, Home on the Range marks the end of a roller coaster ride for traditional animation at Disney … One only wishes it could have ended on a better note then this.
 
Movie Guru Rating
Average but solid.  Fans of this genre will probably enjoy it.  Others may not. Average but solid.  Fans of this genre will probably enjoy it.  Others may not. Average but solid.  Fans of this genre will probably enjoy it.  Others may not.
  3 out of 5 stars

 
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