It’s kinda surprising that it took this long for Disney, an American institution, to tackle the most American of genres the Western in a full length story. There’s the Pecos Bill story in Melody Time, but that’s pretty much it in the animated movies.
Unfortunately the wait isn’t entirely worth it as this is a patchy affair that never really connected with me. That’s not to say it’s without charm, but it’s a distinctly middling movie, not awful, but definitely far from being a great.
The plot deals with three cows who live on an idyllic dairy farm named Little Patch of Heaven. Two of the cows, Mrs Calloway and Grace (Judi Dench and Jennifer Tilly), have lived there a long time, while the third is a newcomer, brash show cow Maggie (Roseanne Barr), who arrives after her former home was forced to be sold after the rest of the herd was stolen by notorious bandit Alameda Slim (Randy Quaid).
The farm is in trouble when the bank calls in their debts, and unless the cash can be raised in a few days the farm will be auctioned, as several others have been, many bought by the mysterious Yancy O’Dell. The money needed is exactly the same as the bounty offered for Slim, so the cows decide to go after him and see if they can bring him in.
Also after the outlaw is Rico (Charles Dennis) a famously tough bounty hunter who borrows the local sheriff’s horse Buck (Cuba Gooding Jr), an ambitious, adventure craving individual who dreams of being a hero. Buck dismisses the cows’ idea as foolish, but finds them hard to shake and dogged in their pursuit.
The plot is all kinds of daft, and the bounty hunting cows aren’t even the silliest part. Some of the silliness is quite entertaining like Lucky Jack, a rabbit who constantly suffers misfortune, his luck gone with his missing foot.
I did really like the villain, with Randy Quaid doing a great job of making Alameda a hotheaded, arrogant buffoon who spends half of his time struggling to control his temper or strutting about. His anger that people dismiss his yodelling as mere singing is a nice character touch and the fact that he hypnotises the cows he steals with his yodels is pretty clever, especially as they set up Grace to be immune due to being tone deaf.
The problem is that the good moments are scattered out and in between it struggled to hold my attention. The art is serviceable but lacks that wow factor you expect from Disney, and the music is disappointingly average and forgettable.
Worse still, the major characters of Buck and Maggie are both incredibly irritating. While Buck is comic relief, and does have some funny scenes, Maggie is our protagonist and is a bit too brash for my liking. Also, the joke about her udders at the start jars with the tone of the movie and would puzzle younger viewers.
The ’00s appear to have been a bit of a hit and miss period for Disney, and this one goes in the miss pile.
Disney Score: 4/10.
Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO.