With the excruciatingly unfunny experience that was Kung Pow firmly lodged in memory, I had little in the way of hopes for Barnyard. Most of Steve Oedekerks comedy seems centred around inane physical humour and Kung Pow showed that he had a total inability to know when a gag was funny or not. Grudgingly to Oedekerks credit, one has to allow him that Barnyard is an improvement over Kung Pow and on its own terms is an amiable film.
Barnyard feels like Steve Oedekerk has conducted a conceptual mix of Animal Farm (1954), the satirical George Orwell novel and animated film about barnyard animals that conduct a revolution against their human owner (while no revolution occurs here, the farmer is sidelined for most of the action and repeatedly knocked out during the rest of it) and Disneys The Lion King (1994) the son who inherits the crown of rulership over various animals after his much wiser father is killed in a violent animal melee. There is not much of a plot to Barnyard. Steve Oedekerk is a gag writer and much of the film is focused around the animals doing silly things. The menace of coyotes seems weakly contrived at times, there whenever the film needs something to drive it along, while the token romance fails to come to life much either.
I have written much about how I hate films that are constantly playing to contemporary audiences with inane gags that rupture the suspension of disbelief, make frequent joke references to contemporary popular culture or have animals behaving in absurdly anthropomorphic ways. This is something that Barnyard is more than guilty of. The film is almost entirely construed around a series of gags with the barnyard animals doing such things as driving cars, riding motorcycles, doing musicals numbers that range from bluegrass to rap and the blues, gags about animals riding a human mechanical bull or chickens throwing darts at a dartboard with Colonel Sanders face on it, and a very silly sequence with Otis and several others skiing down a mountainside on a surfboard that is roped to a block of ice.
Almost every single comment made about Barnyard seems to focus on the anatomical absurdity of the male cattle in the film having udders. This was something that Steve Oedekerk admitted they did deliberately because he liked the ridiculousness of having characters with udders. This is the problem with Barnyard, where Oedekerk has placed much of the focus of the film on gags that have a silliness that goes way beyond description. Barnyard almost redeems itself by driving everything along with an undeniably ebullient energy such that it mostly ducks the usual inanity that dogs these other films.
The film was spun off into an animated series Back at the Barnyard (2007-11).