Disney Marathon: ‘Home on the Range’


If there’s one movie on this list you haven’t seen, it’ll be this one. Home on the Range landed with a dull thud and saw the close of the traditional animation department of animation for five years. It made no cultural impact, failed to develop a fan base and generally disappeared to the mists of time. This is not only our first time watching this, it’s the first time the kids have heard of it.

For those just joining us, this is a movie marathon with a twist. Myself (cranky 30s blogger), my son Josh (stoic 10 year old Nintendo obsessive) and my daughter Amelia (drama llama 7 year old princess wannabe) are watching Disney movies in a random order and ranking them. We hope to see interesting differences in how we organise our lists.

Film: Home of the Range

Released: 2004

Director: Will Finn and John Sanford

Cast: Roseanne Barr, Dame Judi Dench, Jennifer Tilly, Cuba Gooding Jr., Randy Quaid, Charles Dennis, Charles Haid, Steve Buscemi

Plot: Maggie is the last cow remaining when her farm closes, a rustler having stolen the rest of the cattle. She winds up on a cheerful small farm with Mrs. Caloway and Grace, a couple of cows who Maggie teams up with to track down the rustler.

Review: It was surprisingly difficult to summarise the plot of this movie because it, well, doesn’t make a great deal of sense. It’s about cows, presented as regular cows in a regular Old West setting who take it upon themselves to become bounty hunters. Whether or not the human characters respond to their presence is dependant on whether or not the story requires it. Sometimes they’re getting up to all manner of slapstick nonsense in the middle of the town square and the streets are somehow deserted at that time.

After the unusually long time taken to set up the bizarre premise of bounty hunting cows, we then have to untangle the kid-friendly villain scheme of real-estate fraud. Alameda Slim (Quaid) is the garish cow rustler target of the bovine heroes, and he wants to become a mogul by buying up all the land in the county. Slim steals herds of cattle from ranches to force them out of business, then buys up the land cheap under the guise of ‘Yancy O’Dell’. Oh, and Slim can hypnotise cows by yodelling at them. A surprising amount of the story is spent explaining all of this.

That’s not all, we also have the ‘genie’ archetype that had become a standard for Disney movies of this era. Buck is Cuba Gooding Jr. as a horse, doing his usual routine and is supposed to be the ‘cool’ character. In order to get him into the story they have to set him up, then find a way to get him involved in the Alameda Slim story, then jam in a series of contrivances to get him in with the cows…it doesn’t matter. He adds nothing to the story.

Guess which one is played by Steve Buscemi.

Home on the Range isn’t a bad film per se, it just missed. It aimed to tap into Western stereotypes and provide a cross-section of the Old West, but it missed. There’s a bunch of anachronisms that seem to be derived from actor’s ad-libbing dialogue. It has plenty of gags, but almost none of them land. There are dozens of characters, but only a small number impact the story. Just a few small elements of the movie make any impact.

None of the seperate parts of the movie gel together. We start out with a wide landscape shot of the region, with cacti and covered wagons framing a jack rabbit chase. Then Roseanne Barr makes a joke about her udders being ‘real’. Barr’s character, Maggie, seems to exist only to annoy the other characters, and it’s never clear why she is taken in by the others at the end. The stern and cranky Mrs. Caloway and naive Grace (Dench and Tilly) are plenty entertaining on their own, and their performances generate most of the laughs the film manages to eek out.

If you are one of the many, many people who never saw Home on the Range then you don’t need to rush out to correct this. There’s nothing original that works in combination with the rest of the movie. It’s just a clunker.

Best Song: I don’t remember any except the ‘Yodel-Adle-Eedle-Idle-Oo’ number performed by the villain. I wish I didn’t remember that.

Coolest Easter Egg: In a weirdly specific and nasty jab at a Dreamworks film, Maggie calls Buck ‘Spirit, stallion of the si-moron’. This is a reference to the film Spirit: Stallion of the Simmoron which has likewise been forgotten.

Weirdest Trivia: The track ‘Will the Sun Ever Rise Again’ was written in response to the 9/11 attacks on New York.

Rating: THREE out of TEN

THE RANKING

ME

One thing we didn’t touch on here is the quality of the animation, which gets Home on the Range taken up a few notches on my list. If only it didn’t have lacklustre writing, characters, music…

Click those titles if you want to see what we said about the other movies.

  1. Zootopia
  2. Robin Hood
  3. Aladdin
  4. The Nightmare Before Christmas
  5. Wreck-It Ralph
  6. Alice in Wonderland
  7. Beauty and the Beast
  8. Moana
  9. Big Hero 6
  10. Frozen
  11. Tangled
  12. The Sword in the Stone
  13. Snow White and the Seven Dwarves
  14. Mulan
  15. Emperor’s New Groove
  16. Fantasia
  17. Ralph Breaks the Internet
  18. The Three Caballeros
  19. The Princess and the Frog
  20. Hercules
  21. Oliver & Company
  22. The Aristocats
  23. Saludos Amigos
  24. Home on the Range
  25. Bolt
  26. Dinosaur
  27. The Fox and the Hound
  28. Pocahontas
  29. A Goofy Movie
  30. Treasure Planet
  31. Chicken Little

AMELIA

Amelia seems to latch onto small parts of a movie and focus in on them. In this case it was a line about the chicken working out why they crossed the road. I anticipate that this’ll get dropped a few ranks before long.

  1. Frozen
  2. Emperor’s New Groove
  3. Zootopia
  4. Moana
  5. Home on the Range
  6. The Nightmare Before Christmas
  7. Mulan
  8. Hercules
  9. Alice in Wonderland
  10. Wreck-It Ralph
  11. Tangled
  12. Bolt
  13. Pocahontas
  14. Dinosaur
  15. The Aristocats
  16. The Princess and the Frog
  17. Robin Hood
  18. Beauty and the Beast
  19. The Three Caballeros
  20. The Fox and the Hound
  21. The Sword in the Stone
  22. Saludos Amigos
  23. Oliver & Company
  24. Aladdin
  25. Treasure Planet
  26. Big Hero 6
  27. A Goofy Movie
  28. Snow White and the Seven Dwarves
  29. Chicken Little
  30. Fantasia

JOSHUA

Josh feels that some parts of this movie are good and some parts are bed. So he slated in around the middle. It’s been a while since we had a movie that worked for Josh.

  1. Zootopia
  2. Big Hero 6
  3. Aladdin
  4. Emperor’s New Groove
  5. Treasure Planet
  6. Moana
  7. Ralph Breaks the Internet
  8. The Three Caballeros
  9. Saludos Amigos
  10. Wreck-It Ralph
  11. Frozen
  12. Mulan
  13. The Princess and the Frog
  14. Robin Hood
  15. Bolt
  16. The Sword in the Stone
  17. Beauty and the Beast
  18. Oliver & Company
  19. Tangled
  20. Home on the Range
  21. Pocahontas
  22. A Goofy Movie
  23. The Aristocats
  24. Fantasia
  25. Snow White and the Seven Dwarves
  26. The Fox and the Hound
  27. The Nightmare Before Christmas
  28. Dinosaur
  29. Hercules
  30. Alice in Wonderland
  31. Chicken Little