Gather round kids. Let me tell you a tale of the fearsome outlaw who almost took down Sheriff Disney and his entire 2D team…
Yes that’s right. It’s time to talk about Home on the Range. The movie which for 5 years would be blamed for shutting down the Disney 2D hand drawn animation department. Then Princess and the Frog came out and all was right again in the world…
So, is it worthy of the hate? Pretty much yes. I liked some of the animation and the music was entertaining but the rest was a mess.
There is basically no production information out there on this movie and sorry guys I was not about to watch it twice with audio commentary…I love you but not that much.
So, instead of talking about the process and ideas let me just make a couple comments.
First, this movie cost $110 million dollars to make. That seems impossible. Where did the money go? As a point of contrast in 2002 an underrated film, The Wild Thornberry’s Movie, came out (which I should have featured in my non-Disney animation I like). That movie is set in Africa, has great music, a cast as well-known as Home on the Range and it cost 35 million. I defy anyone to make the argument Wild Thornberry’s Movie looks nearly 3 times cheaper to make than Home on the Range . Seriously what the heck Disney?
But I’m not critiquing the budget. It just makes a girl wonder. Could this be like the ‘we know it is going to be terrible movie’ like in The Producers? I mean watch the movie and tell me that is not a possibility. In any case, I find it very hard to believe anyone was actually trying to make a good movie here.
The other production point I’d like to bring up is another example of the complete ineptitude of the MPAA. Home on the Range gets a PG rating! And you want to know why? Because a line Roseann cow says about her utters being ‘real, don’t stare’. That line is somehow worthy of a PG when burning a family alive in a house and singing about lust, rape and murder gets a G for Hunchback? That makes no sense. A cows utters are more offensive to the MPAA than a family almost being burned alive! Let that sink in…
I can’t say it enough don’t listen to the ratings. They are worthless! Do your research and decide for yourself if the movie is for you and your children.
It’s what you get from having an organization police and rate itself. Unbelievable.
The only other production note is it looks a lot like Pecos Bill from Melody Time (1948) which I gave a B+ to and enjoy much more than this). I even wonder if they used some of the red rock backgrounds from Pecos Bill for this movie. It wouldn’t be above the Disney team to do so. They certainly didn’t improve upon 1948 imagery.
From Pecos Bill
From Home on the Range.
As I describe this story I want to remind you- this is the studio who made turning into a llama funny and endearing. Good writing can make any story, no matter how formulaic or strange good. Look at Babe, one of my favorite children’s films of all time. It is about a barnyard in peril but it has such heart and the script is so well written. Here we get nothing new except for a little yodeling.
Basically a cow voiced by Roseann Barr (yes you read right…who thought that was a good idea?) is sold to The Patch O’Heaven farm where all animals are treated like the family. She is an award winning cow who’s master has to sell her because his entire 500 cow fleet has been stolen. She joins 2 other cows, one a cliche of new age niceness voiced by the always great Jennifer Tilly, and proper prim hat wearing Mrs Calloway voiced by Judi Dench (yes Dame Judi Dench is in this thing). Wouldn’t it make more sense for the show cow to be voiced by the Brit? Wouldn’t it make sense for the new girl to be all prim and proper?
Well, the farm owner is Mrs Pearl and she is completely forgettable. (Again think of Babe and how much you love Farmer Hoggett by the end of that movie…). She is behind on her payments and the sheriff is going to auction off the property (how many times have we seen that plot? The whole ‘we have to save the farm, or the orphanage or civic center etc’…snoozefest).
And if things are so bad why does Pearl have the money to buy a prize winning cow and couldn’t she sell it? I get she has attachments to the other animals but she literally just got Maggie (Roseanne Cow). That makes no sense.
But here I am trying to apply sense to a movie about cows saving the day (again can be done well, look at Babe).
There is a nice song sung by KD Lang about the farm.
So off our cows go to save the farm and they have an embarrassing scene in a saloon and then meet Buck a high dreaming horse who wants to be a sheriff (think of Maximus in Tangled. He does the Sheriff horse thing so much better without saying one word). Buck is voiced by Cuba Gooding Jr in an annoying performance, which is obviously trying to be Chris Rock in Madagascar and Eddie Murphy in Shrek and Mulan. It fails. Plus, he is in the movie kind of erratically.
At least to me, it is not funny to have a horse ninja chop a bunch of outlaws. How would he even know how to do that? Why not have him be great with a gun? In a world where horses can fight that makes more sense or a lasso would have been cool. Again Maximus is so much more subtle and funny.
And there is Rico who Buck wants to work with who is an obvious parody of Clint Eastwood but do the kids even know who that is or what it is paying homage too? I hope not because Clint Eastwood westerns are really violent and why not get Clint to do the voice? That would have been entertaining to the adults at least.
He is in the movie sporadically also. Not enough to understand what he is doing or care. Think in the Jungle Book we get very little time with Kaaa but it is enough to find him chilling and to understand who he is as a character.
I will add there are also a lot of toddler level jokes which have also been done with a lot more humor and effect in other films. Things like burping pigs aren’t funny to me…
So, the cows get given to a Chinese man in a strange scene with subtitles and our villain finally comes named Alameda Slim who is obese- how hilarious he’s named slim and is fat! Ha, ha, ha…that’s what goes as humor in this movie!
He is voiced by Randy Quaid and he has the most unusal super power I’ve ever heard of. He can hypnotize cows with his magic yodeling… Again, anything can be good with good writing but this is pushing it.
He has hypnotized herds all over the valley and then when the ranches are destitute like Roseann Cow’s ranch he buys them at auction using the most obvious disguise I’ve ever seen.
In order to buy this scheme you would have to assume that every ranch hand is a complete moron. Plus, cows are big and yet he has them all in a cave. 500 bovines in a cave…that is some cave.
That said, the yodel song was animated pretty well. It’s a copy of Pink Elephants on Parade and Heffalumps and Woozles but since that was a long time ago I’ll let it slide.
The music in general in the movie is pretty good. Alan Menken did the melodies and then there are country/pop stars like KD Lang and Tim McGraw who sing.
I particularly liked Alan Menken’s Aaron Copelanish score. That man can do anything
So basically the last half of Home on the Range is the cows chasing Slim around. At one point they end up on a bad CGI train until they catch him, and spoiler alert win back the farm. Oh and Rico is a double agent but we haven’t gotten to know him, so I really didn’t care.
So, basically this one is a skip. The humor is sophomoric and unoriginal. The storyline is so predicable. The yodeling was an interesting twist but aside from the one song nothing interesting is really done with it.
The backgrounds are pretty and I liked the music but that’s about it. My advice get Melody TIme and watch Pecos Bill. If you do, you will see Roy Rodgers and hear a Western Tale how it is supposed to be told.
Overall Grade- D- (I give it a hair up on Brother Bear because at least I liked the music in this and I did think it was pretty at spots and thought the yodel song was marginally clever but they both suck)
Disney you are killing me here!!!! And just think this was the era of Pixar glory! The Incredibles came out this year for goodness sake! Sigh…