Home on the Range

Maggie (voiced by Roseanne) is the only cow left behind when outlaws steal the rest of the cattle from her farm one quiet night in the old west. Sent to live at a small refuge for farm animals called “Patch of Heaven,” Maggie’s brash demeanor instantly clashes with the more refined residents of the farm. When it becomes clear that a yodeling outlaw named Alameda Slim (Randy Quaid) is behind the cattle thefts, as well as the mass purchasing of the farms that go bankrupt as a result of his evil deeds, Maggie teams up with fellow cows, Mrs. Calloway (Judi Dench) and Grace (Jennifer Tilly), along with horse Buck (Cuba Gooding Jr.), to capture Slim and save their farm.

Coming off the emotionally captivating and beautifully animated hit from last winter, “Brother Bear,” those looking for another epic, enriching Disney offering are not going to get a second heaping spoonful of that with “Home on the Range.” This new 2-D animated creation is playing at the level of the studio’s forgettable 2000 release, “The Emperor’s New Groove,” in which laughs are the main goal, served with a slight hint of Warner Brothers heightened wackiness.

“Range” is an agreeable, very cheery family film. It’s colorfully animated, and, at 75 minutes, it moves forward without much labor from the screenplay, save for an artificial mid-movie “sadness” montage that puts the brakes on things abruptly. And with the exception of an unforgivable belching sequence, “Range” actually does contain some laugh-out-loud moments, mostly from Cuba Gooding’s voice work as the ambitious and needy horse, Buck.

The film knows exactly what to do, and even though it’s short and it runs smoothly, it doesn’t have the weight of earlier Disney animated properties. “Range” is an easy lay-up from a company that is currently rotting from the inside and the conventional nature of the film is disappointing. Disney formula overflows in “Range,” and it will always be around. It can’t be escaped. But one gets the sinking feeling of hollowness with “Range,” along with a depressingly short list of goals for the film. After flooding the marketplace with direct-to-video sequels and television knock-offs of their feature hits, “Range” doesn’t even stand out among that pack, lacking the grandeur needed to keep its head above the company’s shark infested waters.

I make it sound bad, but “Range” is dependable throughout. It just looks lazy in the greater scheme of things, and stinks too much of Disney calling their shot with this release. The sad fact is that “Home on the Range” is going to be one of the last major 2-D animated films from Disney as they try to catch up to the CG bandwagon over the next handful of years. It’s bittersweet that the era has to end on this accomplished, but awfully slight entry and not on a blockbuster.

Rating: B-