Home on the Range

Genre: Kids and Family, Western, Animation; Starring: Roseanne Barr, Judi Dench, Cuba Gooding Jr., Randy Quaid, Steve Buscemi, Jennifer Tilly, Trisha Yearwood; Director: Will Finn, John Sandford; Author: Will Finn, John Sanford; Release Date Wide: 04/02/2004; Runtime (in minutes): 76; MPAA Rating: PG; Distributor: Walt Disney Pictures

The heroines of Home on the Range are three middle-aged cows, unwitting representatives, perhaps, of a novel target audience for a Disney animated feature with a score by Alan ”A Whole New World” Menken. But resourceful ruminants of a certain age turn out to be the only fresh meat in a mild, mild Western-themed adventure centered on a utopian animal farm; even the mesmerizing yodeling skills of Alameda Slim (voiced by Randy Quaid), an outlaw whose greed sets the plot in motion, seem puny compared with the powers of mermaids and genies of Disney triumphs past.

On this very middling range, when the ”Patch of Heaven” dairy farm is on the auction block and Slim is grabbing land like Donald Trump-on-the-prairie, bovine ladies Grace (Jennifer Tilly), Mrs. Caloway (Judi Dench, applying her imperious ”M” diction to charming effect), and their snappy new friend Maggie (Roseanne Barr, full of beans) organize to thwart the villain, with help from a pumped-up stallion (Cuba Gooding Jr.). The conservatively cheery artistic style suggests that the animation team has been reading Sundance merchandise catalogs.

Such a low-risk vision is, I figure, intentional on the part of writer-directors Will Finn and John Sanford, Disney company veterans making their feature-directing debut. ”Home on the Range” is insistently – and constrictedly – pocket-size, an adventure for families who’ve decided on local travel for their next vacation.

Originally posted March 31 2004 — 12:00 AM EST

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