Home on the Range Review
By Shawn McKenzie 04/03/2004
When you think of Disney, you think of animated features. It all started in 1937 with the release of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, and continued for decades. With the release of Home on the Range, Disney is closing their hand-drawn animation department in favor of computer animation. Unfortunately, since Disney recently parted ways with computer animation kings Pixar Studios, it may spell the end of animation at Disney completely. If that is the case, this movie isn’t the best movie to go out with, but it’s not that bad either.
Maggie (voiced by Roseanne Barr) is the only cow left on the Dixon farm after cattle rustler named Alameda Slim (voiced by Randy Quaid) and his three idiot nephews, Phil, Bill, and Gil Willie (voiced by Sam J. Levine), steal its entire herd from its owner, Abner (voiced by Dennis Weaver.) Slim has been doing this all over the Old West, and later he comes back to buy the depleted farms at a huge discount as Mr. Y. O’Del (a play on words derived from his talent to hypnotize cows with his yodeling.) Abner is forced to auction his own farm off, and Maggie is sent to live on the Patch of Heaven dairy farm, run by a kind old lady named Pearl Gesner (voiced by Carole Cook.) Mrs. Caloway (voiced by Judi Dench), the lead cow with a British accent and a too-close relationship with her straw hat, immediately doesn’t like Maggie and her bragging about winning county fairs. Mrs. C is only able to stand the one other cow on the farm, Grace (voiced by Jennifer Tilly), a naïve younger cow that is severely tone-deaf. She’s also learned to live with a crabby, tin can-hoarding goat named Jeb (voiced by Joe Flaherty); a pig named Ollie (voiced by Charlie Dell); and an ill at ease chicken named Audrey (voiced by Estelle Harris.) No sooner does Maggie arrive than she faces losing yet another farm. Sheriff Sam Brown (voiced by Richard Riehle) visits Pearl and tells her that if she doesn’t come up with the $750 that she owes the bank, her farm will be auctioned off. Pearl won’t sell any of her animals, so she prepares for the worst. Maggie doesn’t want to be homeless again, so she talks the other two cows into going into town, getting Brown’s horse Buck (voiced by Cuba Gooding Jr.) to help them pick up an extension on the foreclosure, and win the Blue Ribbon prize money at the upcoming county fair. Buck tells them that it is hopeless to get an extension, but the cows overhear that the reward money for the capture of Slim is exactly $750. They decide instead to get themselves rustled by Slim and then capture him for the reward money. Mrs. C doesn’t want to do it (she didn’t want to come to town either), but caves in eventually. Buck won’t help them because he prefers to help the famous bounty hunter Rico (voiced by Charles Dennis) capture Slim himself, even though the hunter later drops Buck for another horse named Patrick (voiced by Patrick Warburton.) The cows’ plan doesn’t end up working, and they lose Slim. Fortunately, they get help from a peg-legged jackrabbit named Lucky Jack (voiced by Charles Haid) who tells them that Slim is holding his rustled cattle in Echo Mine, where he plans to sell them to a cattle buyer named Wesley (voiced by Steve Buscemi.) They then set upon finally apprehending Slim and saving the farm.
Every voice is cast perfectly in this film. Roseanne may annoy many people, but I continue to find her very funny. Regrettably, it’s her one line in the movie about her udders that earned the film its PG rating (even though they include the line in the trailers.) Tilly’s inability to sing keeps the movie from being bogged down by big musical production numbers (instead we hear some great songs in the background from k.d. lang, Bonnie Raitt, Tim McGraw, and more.) Cuba gives his funniest performance in years as Buck the horse, though the character constantly reminded me of Mr. Horse from “The Ren & Stimpy Show” (I kept expecting him to say, “No sir, I don’t like it.”)
If Disney is closing the book on hand-drawn animation with Home on the Range, they could have done worse. It isn’t an instant classic like Beauty & the Beast or The Lion King, but it is fun for the whole family. I still think that it’s good writing that makes a good movie, whether it is hand-drawn or computer-animated, and Pixar has been successful by having some of the best writing in years for an animated feature (last year’s Finding Nemo became an instant classic in my opinion.) Maybe someday a pioneering studio will once again have a hit with a hand-drawn feature by including some witty, smart writing, and it will revive the genre in some retro way. Until then, enjoy this film, the last of a once great animated era.
Buy these items at
SEE THIS MOVIE!
Catch this movie at the theater if you can...
Wait until it comes out on video...
Wait until it plays on HBO, Showtime, Starz, etc...
Demand your money back, even if you saw it for free!