I took my son to see Barnyard yesterday. It was not the strangest movie I’ve ever seen in my life but it may have made my top ten.
The first thing I noticed was that male protagonists (anthropomorphic male cows) were…well, COWS, as in not bulls. Not only did they not have horns but they had udders. Very large and very prominent udders. And it wasn’t like you could ignore them because these transgender dairy animals were walking around on two legs so their udders were right there wiggling in the viewers face. The visual was so bizarre that I began to wonder if the popcorn I had bought had been a bad choice. This is the kind of movie that should be watched while eating “special” brownies. But that’s just my opinion, right? Anyone who’s read more than one review for the same movie knows that critics rarely agree (with one another or with viewers) and they always fixate on different aspects of the film. So in the interest of getting the varied opinions of others I went online and looked up the reviews. The following is what I found:
The first paragraph of USA Today’s review:
There's some serious gender-bending going on in Nickelodeon's latest animated venture. Barnyard just might be the Transamerica of computer-generated family films. It's a sweet and mildly funny movie that will entertain young audiences, but one aspect is utterly mystifying: The two main characters, father and son bovine creatures, have large, distracting udders
Here are the first two paragraphs of the LA Times review:
I understand that realism is not the main goal in an animated movie about anthropomorphized farm animals, but, seriously, what's with the male cows in Barnyard? Did the bovine gender confusion at the heart of the story give no one pause at Paramount or Nickelodeon? Did the drawbacks of featuring a female lead so outweigh the benefits of cow protagonism that a mass species sex-change was required in order for the project to go forward? Are hornless, uddered boy-cows the next big thing in aggressively marketed, reality-displacing fallacies, like Snackwells and intelligent design?
I don't pretend to know all the answers; all I can say for sure is that in writer-director Steve Oedekerk's bizarre computer-animated universe, "female cows" are required to wear hair accessories in order to differentiate themselves from "male cows," with whom they unaccountably share secondary sex characteristics. Otis the cow (voiced by Kevin James), his alpha cow dad, Ben (Sam Elliott), and the thuggish band of Jersey cows Otis teams up with toward the end of the movie are all in unfortunate possession of protuberant udders that look like rubber toilet plungers with four wobbly cocktail weenies attached. The image would be plenty disturbing enough if the characters didn't compound the shock by going about on hind legs and engaging in lots of bouncy physical activity. Reader, there were times when I felt compelled to avert my eyes and pray for pants.
Here’s the first sentence of Variety’s review:
With a blithe disregard for anatomical correctness, Barnyard offers the spectacle of male cows equipped with prominent udders while spinning an uplifting coming-of-age yarn spiked with liberal doses of madcap lunacy.
And The Washington Posts:
Kids 8 and older may laugh now and again at this ill-conceived animated comic fable about barnyard animals who party like frat boys when the farmer isn't looking, but it surely doesn't earn the laughs through good storytelling or beautiful animation. First and foremost, parents may find themselves trying to explain why key characters in Barnyard are milk cows with udders (looking like slightly modified toilet plungers, minus the wood handles) who are supposedly male. And since the animals walk on two legs when the farmer isn't around, those udders on male "cows" with male voices look even weirder.
So now I have a different feeling about this film. In a society that has become increasingly polarized it’s nice to know that we all can agree on something. This film may very well prove to be the bonding experience of our generation!
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