Mark Mayerson · December 28, 2006 | Barnyard, written and directed by Steve Oedekerk, is about a male cow (yes, it's an oxymoron) named Otis who learns about courage and responsibility. (There's no getting around the fact that male cows with udders look like they're wearing ribbed condoms.) Otis's adopted father dies at the hands of evil coyotes, and Otis and his barnyard buddies come together to eliminate the coyote menace and save the animals that live in the barnyard.

Barnyard is one of those films that careens wildly in all directions. Anything that appealed to the director got tossed into the mix whether it fit or not. It veers repeatedly from wacky comedy to drama to sentimentality and because it changes moods in the blink of an eye, it undercuts any effectiveness it manages to build up. There are echoes of Toy Story, A Bug's Life, Spider-Man, The Lion King and TV shows like Bewitched, The Muppet Show and Cops. While the film has some laughs, it gets by more on being frenetic and noisy than the quality of the gags or comic performances.

The characters are poorly developed, rarely rising above the level of a comedy sketch. They're also poorly designed, especially in how the cows' eyes fail to interact with their mouths and cheeks. When moving, the characters rarely have a believable sense of weight. The voice work by people like Kevin James, Courteney Cox and Danny Glover provides name value but is rather bland.

Directed by Steve Oedekerk
Animation production by Omation
Distributed by Paramount Home Video, 2006
89 minutes

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Extras on the DVD include a commentary track by Oedekerk, producer Paul Marshall and others. There are so many voices on the track, often talking over each other, that it's impossible to tell who is speaking. They also seem to be obsessed with the look of the skies more than they're concerned with the story.

Barnyard Bop is an original two-minute music video. The Mud music video features the North Mississippi Allstars with footage from the feature. Boogying in the Barn is a featurette about the creation of the film's music track featuring interview footage with Steve Oedekerk and the North Mississippi Allstars.

Utter Talent: The Voices of the Barnyard provides interviews with the voice cast and demonstrates that the voice talent have more expressive faces than their animated counterparts. An Animator's Life details the production process and reveals that it took 109 attempts to design Otis until the character was finalized. Method Acting with Kevin James shows the King of Queens star visiting with cows to train for the role of Otis.

There are deleted scenes, some of which are fully animated and some of which are still story reels. The DVD includes the theatrical trailer as well as the Nickelodeon on-air campaign for the film. There are DVD-ROM games that don't work on Apple computers. In addition, there are previews for Charlotte's Web and the DVD releases of Over the Hedge, Nacho Libre and (heaven help us) Barnyard: The Series, starting in fall 2007 on Nickelodeon.

Barnyard grossed more than $72 million, making it a box office success. Nickelodeon obviously understands its audience, but if you're outside of Nick's demographic, you'll probably be disappointed in this film.

DVD Features: 16:9 aspect ratio; English audio track; Region 1.

DVD Extras: Audio commentary; music videos; cast interviews; An Animator's Life and Method Acting with Kevin James featurettes; deleted scenes; DVD-ROM games.

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