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Home On The Range
voice cast: Judi Dench, Cuba Gooding Jr, Randy Quaid, Roseanne

writers and directors: Will Finn, John Sanford
76 minutes (PG) 2004
widescreen ratio 1.66:1
Disney DVD Region 1 rental and retail
Also available on video

RATING: 6/10
reviewed by Noell Wolfgram Evans
Disney has released on DVD and VHS, Home On The Range, a solid, but standard animated feature. The movie is fun, yet slightly generic and yet would most likely be relegated to the under-echelon of Disney films were it not for the fact that it is Walt Disney Feature Animations final 2D animated theatrical feature film. (At least that's what the company says, trends and time will tell though.)

It's interesting timing, the release of this film along with the recent release of The Three Musketeers. The two films embody a spirit of earlier filmmaking times, when stories were seemingly made up on the fly and animating personalities, not focus groups, played the dominating part in the creation of a movie. Of course both these films also show the true skill and genius required for creating the feelings early animation embodied and what a fine line that is. Where The Three Musketeers is a bit to rough around the edges, Home On The Range is too polished, and it feels a little too slick. In nearly every scene it's as if the production team is holding back, playing it safe. This may be because directors Will Finn and John Sanford knew that this would be the last film of its kind and wanted to let the traditional format bow out gracefully, but I would have much rather they threw everything into it and at best allowed for a great farewell while at the least created an interesting attempt at grandeur.

That said, the film is entertaining enough. The idea (cows trying to save a farm) is an intriguing one, but its execution is what's lacking. While the film looks great, it has no emotion and heart. That is due in no part though to the voice work of Roseanne who gives a surprisingly nuanced performance as a prize-winning heifer. She does her best with the character but it's such a straight-line part, that she really doesn't have a lot of comedy leeway. She's another in a line of actors who surprisingly can provide strong animated work (Albert Brooks and Robby Benson being some of the others) and it would be very interesting to see what she could do with stronger material. The rest of the voice cast, which includes two Oscar winners, never seem to be able to get past the idea that they are providing voices for an animated film.

'Standard' is a great way to describe this film. It's not too 'out there' and not too saccharine. If you like your movies predictable, this may be perfect for you, but if you're looking for something that requires a little more emotional investment, you may find yourself disappointed. The fact that it's neither wonderful, nor horrible means that while Home On The Range is not a grand farewell to the 2D tradition, it can be a respectable one. As Disney is often at the forefront of animation (if just in public perception) it will be interesting to see the animated films that follow this one to see its true effect in the field. It's a reason to watch it now, so it will be in your head as the next few animated years unfold.

The DVD release of Home On The Range contains a fairly typical 'making of...' documentary as well as three games, four deleted scenes and an all-new short that tries to tell the story of The Three Little Pigs. The animation in this piece is interesting in a UPA meets Blues Clues style and as with nearly everything else in this film, it would have been great to see this style attached to something with more substance. Altogether it's a solid package that should provide some decent, non-offensive entertainment.

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