Talking zoo animals in Madagascar and The Wild. Talking woodland animals in Open Season and Over The Hedge. Talking, erm, ice-based animals in Ice Age: The Meltdown. A talking chicken with a baseball cap in Chicken Little... Would it really be so churlish of us to suggest... enough with the talking animals, already! Can’t we at least shift our gaze to a not so sickly-cuddly dimension? The kooky, anthropomorphised antics of a squirming rabble of mini-bugs and bacteria, perhaps? Ben Stiller could do the voice of the nematode worm. Jack Nicholson as the misunderstood pubic louse...
Barnyard stinks. A simmering swill of re-recycled gags, wafer-thin caricatures and cadaverous sub-plots exhumed from a dozen other ’toons. The insultingly familiar story is Pixar ultra-lite; the musical turns are rubbish; the daffy dialogue pepped up on a punishing, saccharine-rush of mawkish homilies. “A strong man stands up for himself,” drones big Ben to son Otis. “A stronger man stands up for others...” Sadly, Otis declines to make the point that they’re both cows, not men. Male cows. With. Bloody. Udders.
The trinket glinting from the grubby trough is David Koechner’s demonic turn as wily, smily coyote Dag. All flashing fangs and fizzing spittle, he’s Scar reborn; a bracing spike of genuine menace and the only thing resembling a memorable character or moment in the entire movie. Actually, there is one other really funny bit, where the farmer (who thinks his stock are all docile and dormant) stumbles in on the bipedal creatures throwing a wild party and they have to biff him unconscious and position him under a tree as if an apple has fallen on his head or something. But he wakes up too early and they have to knock him out again and re-prop him under a branch... Maybe you have to be there. But we don’t advise it.
For a farmyard-related family pic, go for Babe. If you insist on it being animated, Open Season is alright. But Barnyard is a muck-spread; cattle class; an over-milked mad cow; farm-stale... Not very good.