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" (IMDb listing). 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
"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.
Filmfodder Grade: B-