Friday, December 1, 2023
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Barnyard Review

Years ago, when I was afflicted by a horrid bout of Scarlet Fever, I would sometimes have feverish visions. Horrors beyond your wildest imagination that would spur my diseased mind through a month of torture. Barnyard must have appeared rather often in those visions; its nightmare fuel is not lost on me. Scarring my mind far more than any infection or virus could possibly hope for, the neutered mind of a simple man struggling to survive under an illness now resistant to legal drugs is simply not able to combat the burst of mind-altering horrors on display in Barnyard. Nickelodeon play their part in this, the blood on their hands as red as the skies that light the final climax.  

But we must not get ahead of ourselves, and as much as director Steve Oedekerk has no respect for pacing, I do. Everything Barnyard throws at us is shovelled in with some vein hope that even the slightest laugh from a wide audience will bring some sense of success. How many laughs are ripe for the picking in a film that barrels through its plot at breakneck speed is beyond me, but the faith and unwavering solidarity Kevin James and crew have with this director is worrying and touching. How none of the more veteran actors within, including Andie MacDowell, Sam Elliott and Danny Glover, thought to ask a question of where the story was headed is a worrying moment. Perhaps they too fear what happens when the farmer is away.  

Not without a handful of decent charms, the few sight gags that can survive the horridly dated animation are worthwhile. Funny may be too grand a word for how to describe these moments, but they are ample timewasters in the face of a weak and battered story. Beyond the realm of actual comedy, relying solely on their ability to adhere and appeal to those of us out there that engage with movies that are so bad they’re good. Barnyard, for much of its running time, forgets it has a story of vengeance and retribution at its heart. James isn’t the greatest vocal lead for the film, but he is on hand to piece together what little story is to be found throughout. Nobody else manages it, and considering the fumbled screentime for everyone involved, audiences are lucky that a coherent narrative appears whatsoever.  

Pray this style does not return, beg whichever entity you may or may not believe in for forgiveness, lest you find yourself in the confines of Barnyard. Defined as a product of its time, how contemporary can it get when Mr. Bombastic dominates the soundtrack? A film that forgets to follow its predictable story, Barnyard is an odd horror show that has little to offer audiences that aren’t attracted to the feelings of nostalgia or torment on display throughout. Who is the greater fool, though? You for feeling fond for this film? Or me for watching it? You. You are the fool. What an odd life it must be to live with the burden of Barnyard, its presence forever seared onto the hearts and minds of a generation. The horror. The horror. 

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Ewan Gleadow
Ewan Gleadow
Editor in Chief at Cult Following | News and culture journalist at Clapper, Daily Star, NewcastleWorld, Daily Mirror | Podcast host of (Don't) Listen to This | Disaster magnet

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