The bloom has finally left the digital rose of that newish art form, computer animation. "Doogal," "The Wild," "The Ant Bully," "Ice Age 2," "Cars" most of this year's computerized crop has had the taste of "straight-to-kids video" about it.
With "Barnyard," another quick-and-dirty "all-star cast" mess churned out by the digital start-ups hired to steal some of Pixar's cash, the year that computer-generated animation "jumps the shark" becomes official.
Politically correct, anatomically incorrect and ugly to look at, the only thing that saves "Barnyard" is writer (and director) Steve "Bruce Almighty" Oedekerk's gift for gags and almost-edgy humor.
This silly parable about the responsibilities of leadership is about a barnyard looked over by Big Ben, the head cow, voiced by Sam Elliott. Ben lives by a stern credo.
"A strong man stands up for himself, a stronger man stands up for others."
Ben is a bovine, not a man. But it still works.
His son, Otis (Kevin James) is meant to inherit daddy's protect-us-from-coyotes duties. But Otis is a party animal. Hook him up with the boys from Jersey (Jersey cows), and he's taking joyrides, jamming the mike at impromptu concerts and break-dancing.
Because this movie is all about what the critters do when the farmer (a vegan, we're told) dozes off. They stand on their hind legs and cut loose.
When Otis takes over, cow-tipping is avenged, the partying on two legs shifts to daylight hours (risking discovery) and the coyotes are in the henhouse.
For some reason, there's an ineptly-rendered chicken-craving weasel in this farm "family," prompting many kiddie (and adult) shouts of "What kind of animal is that?" in the screening I attended. For some reason, the boy cows have udders.
For some reason, Oedekerk thought having Sam Elliott sing Tom Petty's anthem, "I Won't Back Down" as he's facing down coyotes was cute complete with teaching kids the verse "You can stand me up at the gates of" you-know-where.Comment on this story
And for some reason, somebody thought Kevin James would be the perfect voice for a rebel without horns. "The King of Queens" funnyman who is neither funny nor the king of anything when his pal Ray Romano isn't there to prop him up lacks the vocal charisma necessary to make this cow a hoot.
But the slapstick works, as do the big set pieces a barn dance that is out of control, a dancing dervish named "Wild Make," the joy-riding Jerseys.
Forget the animation, the bulls with udders and the dull leading man OK, leading cow and it's almost good enough to make you forget "The Ant Bully." And lower your expectations for the upcoming "Open Season," "Happy Feet" and "Flushed Away."
"Barnyard" is rated PG for mild peril and rude humor. Running time: 83 minutes.