Home on the Range review by Mike Long

The media keeps telling us that traditional hand-drawn 2-D animation is dead, having been replaced with computer-generated animation. And apparently, the public are believing these statements, given the disappointing box-office returns for Disney's latest (and possibly last for a while) animated effort Home on the Range. Disney was clearly sad that the film didn't open at #1, and that it's overall financial returns weren't great. However, if one traces the weekly earnings for the movie, it becomes clear that the movie had minor "legs" and that it was most likely getting good word of mouth. That wouldn't be surprising given that Home on the Range is a charming and fun film.

As Home on the Range opens, we meet a brash cow named Maggie (voiced by Roseanne Barr), who has been forced to leave her farm, due to the fact that it was sold. Her owner could no longer afford the ranch after a cattle-rustler named Alameda Slim (voiced by Randy Quaid) took all of his other cows. Maggie is sent to live at a farm called "Patch of Heaven" with Pearl (voiced by Carole Cook). There she meets two other cows, the stuff Mrs. Calloway (voiced by Judi Dench) and the dim-witted Grace (voiced by Jennifer Tilly). Soon Pearl learns that the bank is going to take her farm if she can't come up with $750. Overhearing this, Maggie decides that it's up to the animals to save "Patch of Heaven" and she convinces Mrs. Calloway and Grace to go with her into town to speak with Buck (voiced by Cuba Gooding, Jr.), the sheriff's horse. Once they reach town, they learn that there is a $750 reward available for Alameda Slim's capture. The three cows then set off to find the cattle rustler, who uses hypnotic yodeling to steal cows. Once on the trail of Alameda Slim, Maggie, Mrs. Calloway, and Grace make some new friends and fine themselves on a great adventure.

If Home on the Range truly is the last traditionally animated film from Disney, than their reign ends on neither a high or down note. The film certainly isn't as good as recent classics such as Beauty and the Beast or Mulan, but nor is it a disappointment like Brother Bear. Home on the Range is simply a fun, family film, and in this day and age, that's quite a feat. The story of "bovine bounty hunters" (as they're called in the film) is both silly and clever at the same time and the filmmakers have done an excellent job of giving Maggie, Mrs. Calloway, and Grace very distinct personalities. This is aided by the great vocal talent in the film, as this is probably the least annoying thing that Roseanne Barr has ever done. The other characters in the film are fun as well, from the various animals in the barnyard (why are those chicks so surly?) to Alameda Slim, who looks like Yosemite Sam's insane cousin. At just 76 minutes, the film moves along at a very nice pace, and the finale is marked by some nicely-done actions scenes. The animation in Home on the Range has a very cartoony look, which may turn-off some Disney traditionalist, but it fits nicely with the over-the-top premise of the film and will be widely accepted by the kiddies. Home on the Range will never be considered a Disney classic, but like The Emperor's New Groove, it's a fun quirky movie which is worth a look.

Home on the Range stampedes onto DVD courtesy of Disney DVD. The film has been letterboxed at 1.66:1 and the THX-certified transfer is enhanced for 16 x 9 TVs. The image looks fantastic, as the bright colors of the film virtually leap off of the screen. The picture has a great deal of depth and is incredibly sharp and clear, showing no grain and no defects from the source material. There is some occasional edge-enhancement, but there are no noticeable defects in the animation or stuttering when the characters move. The DVD contains a nice Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track which provides clear dialogue and sound effects. The stereo effects are nicely done and surround sound is well-used to emulate the wild-west sounds. Unlike many family films, Home on the Range doesn't shy away from supplying the subwoofer effects during the action scenes, making the stampedes come to life.

The Home on the Range DVD contains a trough-full of extras. We start with an audio commentary which features producer Alice Dewey and co-writers/co-directors Will Finn & John Sanford. This is a fun track as they discuss the making of the film, and in particular point out the areas of the film which evolved over time. They also discuss the vocal actors and how it was to work with them. "Trailblazers: The Making of Home on the Range" (17 minutes) comes to us from the Tanque Verde Dude Ranch in Tucson, Arizona where the filmmakers discuss their experiences on the film. Through clips, concept art, and comments, we learn about the characters, the voice actors, the animation, and the music. The DVD contains 4 deleted scenes with introductions from Finn & Sanford. These scenes are interesting, but they are comprised of partial animation and storyboards, so they aren't very fun to watch. There is a 10-minute "Art Review" which gives a very in-depth look at the animation process. There is a music video for the song "Anytime You Need A Friend" by The Beu Sisters. "A Dairy Tale: The Three Little Pigs" is a 3-minute bonus short which features the characters from the film in a odd animated style. The extras are rounded out by a series of "Games & Activities" which include "The Joke Corral" and "Yodelmentary", which elaborates on the history of yodeling.

6 out of 10 Jackasses

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