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Home on the Range

(Will Finn & John Sanford, USA, 2004)


 


Feature animation for children does not come any lamer than Walt Disney Pictures' Home on the Range.

As is frequently the case with Disney productions these days, the pitch to children seems skewed – playing to the nostalgic tastes of a much older generation rather than to kids who are growing up on Pokémon, The Matrix (1999), The Lord of the Rings or The Powerpuff Girls (2002).

Home on the Range evokes the homely, musical Westerns of the 1940s – and its only decent joke reaches back even further, to a line in the 1930 gangster movie Little Caesar.

Perhaps it is straining for Babe-like appeal, with its cast of cows, chickens and assorted other farm animals voiced by the likes of Roseanne Arnold, Randy Quaid, Judi Dench and Jennifer Tilly (whose breathy, little-girl tone carries a disconcertingly kinky association for fans of the cult film Bound [1996]).

The plot concerns the brave voyage of three cows to the big city, in search of the money that will save their farm. Meanwhile, half a dozen syrupy numbers composed by the team of Alan Menken and Glenn Slater, sung by guest stars including k.d. Lang and Bonnie Raitt, float above the action, very occasionally making contact with the storyline.

But one aspect of this middling entertainment proves irresistible. Those concerned citizens who scour the likes of the TV kids' show Playschool for subversive depictions of gay and lesbian lifestyles should pay careful attention to this film. In the feel-good finale, two male animals decide to "share a barrel" indefinitely, while two female animals form a partnership after agreeing that only one of them will "wear the hat".

Has Walt Disney Pictures at last gone queer?

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© Adrian Martin September 2004


Film Critic: Adrian Martin
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