Category Archives: Archived Movies

BARNYARD

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C-

When the farmer’s not looking, the animals will party and play, human-style. Gary Larson did more with this idea in a single “Far Side” panel than Steve Oedekerk and his army of animators can muster over eighty minutes in this tepid computer-generated kidflick. “Barnyard” is the latest in this summer’s series of mediocre animated movies that should have gone directly to DVD but instead have been released to theatres in the hope they’ll catch fire. But like “The Wild” and “The Ant Bully,” it’s likely to sink from view fairly fast.

Of course, a story–even if only of the most rudimentary sort–has to be added to the premise, and so we have a standard-issue one in which a rambunctious young cow named Otis (Kevin James), whose only inclination is to get into trouble with his buddies–Pip the Mouse (Jeff Garcia), Freddy the Ferret (Cam Clarke), and Pig the Pig (Tino Insania)–is compelled to learn responsibility when his (adoptive) father Ben (Sam O’Neill), who’s kept the other animals in line and offered them protection from predators, is killed by a pack of coyotes led by the evil Dag (David Koechner, who seems to be in every third movie released nowadays). Naturally there’s passel of other critters on tap, most importantly a wise old mule named Miles (Danny Glover) and a newcomer, a pregnant heifer called Daisy (Courteney Cox), who’s sweet on Otis despite the misgivings of her attitude-rich pal Bessy (Wanda Sykes).

There are a few amusing moments in “Barnyard.” One comes early on, when Ben wishes a happy birthday to a 13-year old dog and we see the ancient critter’s response. Another involves a series of interruptions to the main story provided by a neighbor couple, Mr. and Mrs. Beady. Maria Bamford’s Mrs. Beady–surely modeled after the nosey Mrs. Kravitz in the old “Bewitched” series–is an irritation, but her long-faced and long-suffering husband, voiced by Oedekerk himself, gets laughs in his few scenes. On the other hand, the other episodes involving humans–a bit involving the farmer, another with a goofy pizza delivery guy, and a third featuring a nasty teen-ager, are weak. And elsewhere the makers offer more volume and saccharine lessons about growing up than real fun. The voice talent works hard but can’t overcome the mediocrity of the material (Cox, as it happens, is especially bland); the songs that periodically intrude are mostly nondescript (although Elliott’s rendition of “I Won’t Back Down” has a gravelly charm); and though the backgrounds are colorful, the character animation isn’t much of an improvement over “Valiant.”

There will always be room for exceptional animated movies in theatres, of the conventional sort and computer-generated. But the lackluster box office performance that can be expected of such middling efforts as this will insure, over time, that the current glut will subside. Even young kids, it seems, can reach a point of having had enough, and even Hollywood studios will learn the financial lessons in due course.

In the meantime, just consign “Barnyard” to the cinematic compost heap.

THE BOYNTON BEACH BEREAVEMENT CLUB

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C

Older viewers will probably enjoy this comedy-drama about romance among men and women of a certain age, which mixes easygoing sentiment, humor that sometimes has a slightly naughty but basically inoffensive edge, and poignancy. But younger audiences will be less appreciative of the sitcomish feel to “The Boynton Beach Bereavement Club,” or its large degree of mawkish manipulation.

The linchpins of the script’s overlapping plot threads are two people who have recently lost their spouses: Marilyn (Brenda Vaccaro), whose husband Marty was run down by a careless woman (Renee Taylor) as he was out jogging, and Jack (Len Cariou), whose beloved wife has died of natural causes. Both wind up at the titular neighborhood meeting in a southern Florida retirement community, where survivors gather to support one another, and are effectively adopted by current members–she by the younger, still active Lois (Dyan Cannon) and he by gregarious ladies’ man Harry (Joseph Bologna). Before long romance is in the air for some of them. Jack is approached by an elegant if rather forward woman named Sandy (Sally Kellerman), while Lois links up with the active, smooth Donald (Michael Nouri). As for Harry, he uses the internet to find companionship. In all three cases, however, obstacles arise. As for Marilyn, her achievement is to become independent again and finally confront her anger over Marty’s death.

As drawn in the take-no-chances script by Susan Seidelman and Shelly Gitlow, and played by a likable cast, these are all pleasant enough characters who make for easy company, with Bologna bound to be an audience favorite for his outgoing personality and elbow-in-the-ribs dialogue. And yet it has to be admitted that the story is decidedly unadventurous, like a dish that’s been prepared for palates that prefer the bland to the spicy–a sort of “American Pie” reformulated for seniors. Seidelman’s laid-back direction accentuates the comfortable old-shoe feel, as does the string of old standards that fill the soundtrack. Even the cinematography by Eric Moynier seems smoothed-out and slightly dull.

So in spite of the estimable cast, in the final analysis “The Boynton Beach Bereavement Club” comes off at about the level of suburban dinner-theatre fare. And unfortunately, a meal is not provided.