- Written and Directed by Will Finn and John Sanford (Feature Directorial Debuts)
- April 2, 2004
- Maggie-Roseanne Barr
- Mrs. Calloway-Judi Dench
- Grace-Jennifer Tilly
- Buck-Cuba Gooding Jr.
- Alameda Slim-Randy Quaid
- Rico-Charles Dennis
- Lucky Jack-Charles Haid
- Pearl Gesner-Carole Cook
- Jeb-Joe Flaherty
- Wesley-Steve Buscemi
- Sam Brown-Richard Riehle
- Junior-Lance LeGault
- Rusty-G. W. Bailey
- Abner Dixon-Dennis Weaver
- Patrick-Patrick Warburton
- Audrey-Estelle Harris
- The Willie Brothers (Slim’s three nephews and henchmen)-Sam J. Levine
- Annie-Ann Richards
A mismatched trio of dairy cows must capture an infamous cattle thief Alameda Slim for his bounty to save their farm from foreclosure.
As Disney films go, Home on the Range is pretty obscure. I would argue that the only people who are aware of this movie are hard-core Disney fans or those with significant others that watch the Home Alone films at all times of the year and see it come up when those are being searched for. That’s how I was reminded of its existence. I do recall it coming out but then as quickly as it came I forgot. And judging by the returns so did the public.
The plot of the story is the heavily used landgrab scheme plot of Older Westerns. That’s what it boils down towards. Not a bad idea as such an idea provides a believable struggle in the Old West. Despite being a Disney film there’s not too much that makes Home on the Range stand out. The humor waffles between child friendly and more adult oriented with nothing falling in between. They make a fake boob joke while using a cow utter as camouflage for it. Seriously! That’s the last thing I would expect in a Disney film. That’s a sharp contrast to the humor derived from Grace the cow who is completely tone deaf and unaware of how terrible her singing is.
Because of things like the boob joke and waffling between the two extremes of humor Home on the Range can have a bit of an uneven tone at times. It has a little trouble deciding what it wants to be and if the people behind this had been able to choose the story would’ve been so much better. Is this an edgy Disney movie or is it safe for all kids?
The action begins when Maggie, a show cow from the Dixon Ranch that has gone under, shows up at the Patch of Heaven farm. Long story short as a way of getting revenge as well as saving her new home, Maggie convinces the other cows on the farm to follow her in order to catch local rustler Alameda Slim whose reward happens to be just enough to pay off the bank and save the farm. Never mind that these are not anthropomorphic animals in this movie that humans interact with but rather the world of human and animal is separated with us being allowed to hear the conversations between the assorted farm animals.
There is the clash of personalities between the slightly stuck on herself Maggie and the stuffy matriarchal Mrs. Calloway who has an apparent general bias towards what she sees as big city animals and is irritated because Maggie quickly charms everyone. The divide that separates the two really is not that great as they both have very similar goals and at points they often agree easily.
Our main villain of Alameda Slim is not simply rustling cattle, but he has also created the secret/alternate identity of Yancey O’Del who goes in and buys up the land that he bankrupts because he rustles that very cattle. It’s all to get back at greedy ranchers which again is not that far removed from any number of dozens of older Westerns. His method of rustling the cattle is unique and perfect for Disney in that he yodels them away. They put a nice spotlight on that when they show his alternate identity at an auction by displaying it as ‘Y. O’Del.’
If there are any lessons to be had here it’s doing what’s right and perhaps even not meeting your heroes. There’s a boisterous horse named Buck owned by the local sheriff who idolizes local bounty hunter Rico. When Rico borrows Buck from the sheriff and then because he’s too energetic Rico tosses him aside. Buck then decides to go off on his own side adventure which doesn’t get shown too much at all here in order to capture Alameda Slim and to prove his worth to his hero. Unfortunately it turns out his hero has taken a side gig covering for Alameda Slim. A little humility as well as people are not all that they seem at times but a lesson that is delivered rather softly.
The animation is quality Disney hand drawn animation with the occasional assist of CGI. The issue is that in my opinion they don’t take full advantage of it to make this more of a traditional Western in a visual sense. They don’t do loving shots of the scenery. The camera doesn’t treat it as artwork. I think that would’ve been a good move as this is a humorous version of a Western and it would have driven that point home.
The entire story isn’t bad but things just happen too fast in Home on the Range. It is all dropped in and then off the story goes. From the sale of the farm by the bank to the rivalry between the cows to even the introduction of the villain it’s just tossed in and boom off things run. You need a little build up to everything but that does not happen here. You know it’s bad and you know it’s serious, but it never feels as if it’s a threat or as important to the characters as it should be.
Overall nothing gets used as well as it could have been. A prime example of this is the crazy rabbit sort of shaman named Lucky Jack. I don’t expect magical powers out of him but I did expect a little bit more humor and perhaps a bit more weirdness on his part as well as caused by him. We just don’t get too much of that.
The finale is frenetic but not much of a cap off. We all know good wins in a Disney movie, but the end does not have the impact of Aladdin or Sleeping Beauty. It is just some wacky stuff that is just that-wacky stuff. Maggie is not as stuck up as she could/should be. Grace is aloof but not consistently. Mrs. Calloway is against the adventure yet flexible on that stance. And Alameda Slim is competent but not so much so that he knows to plan around the incompetence of his underlings.
Home on the Range is not a bad Disney film but it’s not great either. It had so much potential yet doesn’t quite reach it. I will give this an if you want. It’ll certainly entertain your kids but you yourself may not be thrilled by it.