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"...and then they smash you on the head with a hammer, slice you open, and then they chop you up and sell your parts in the store! Had enough yet?! Huh?!"

Home on the Range
(PG, 76 min.)
Wide release

Thursday, April 01, 2004
Copyright © Las Vegas Mercury

Film: Mouse House middling

Home on the Range

By By Anthony Del Valle

About halfway through Disney's latest animated feature Home on the Range--in which three cows try to save a dairy farm from foreclosure--a mean rustlin' varmint with a slimy red mustache and a 10-gallon mop of red hair starts to yodel. This isn't any ordinary yodeler. The fat guy, named Slim, has perfected a quiver that hypnotizes cattle; which makes them all the easier to rustle, you see. When the thief starts to sing the number "Yodel-adle-eedle-idle-oo," with some help from the human vocals of Randy Quaid, we come to understand Slim's magic. The song and images bewitch us nearly as much as they do the cattle. The visual compositions, the razor-sharp editing, the bewitching tune transport us onto a magical plane--which is the only place fantasy movie musicals belong.

Unfortunately, the moment is one of filmmakers Will Finn and John Sanford's few successes at bewitchery. Their screenplay sets up a situation rife for sentiment and singing. But the cleverness just isn't there. An elderly frontier woman is about to lose her home, when three of her cows--mouthy Maggie (Roseanne Barr, what an acting stretch), mousy Grace (Jennifer Tilly) and the elegant Mrs. Calloway (Dame Judi Dench, in another acting stretch)--join a naive but well-meaning buck (Cuba Gooding Jr.) to figure out how to outsmart the evil Slim, who's about to take over the land through seedy means.

Most of the music is by Disney factory-ite Alan Menken and lyricist Glenn Slater, with some numbers thrown in by Bonnie Raitt, K.D. Lang and Tim McGraw.

It's all very competent, but rarely inspired. The picture glides along dutifully, like an old, reliable, family station wagon that's a tad cocky in thinking it knows the road well.

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