The Little Piece of Heaven family farm is about to go under and outlaw cattle rustler Alameda Slim sets his sights on it. Three dairy cows -- tough Maggie, leader Mrs. Calloway, and naïve Grace -- team up to save the farm. Along with ambitious stallion Buck, helpful rabbit Lucky Jack, and other helpful barnyard friends, the cows set out to capture Alameda Slim and collect the reward money.
This feature-length Disney western cartoon comedy is intermittently funny, but so pumped up for action that it may qualify for a slap on the wrist from Major League Baseball for banned substance abuse. At the very least, the movie may be the first film to require cortisone treatments from jamming its elbow in the audience's ribs so often. Roseanne Barr is the voice of Maggie, a show cow who's now homeless; her spiky, slightly sour delivery gives "Range" some needed breathing room. Her owner was forced to sell his farm after the rustler Alameda Slim (Randy Quaid) cleaned him out of cow and home. Maggie is deposited at Patch of Heaven, a dairy farm, where she meets up with two other heifers: the prim Brit Mrs. Caloway (Judi Dench) and Grace (Jennifer Tilly). When Patch of Heaven, also on the verge of failure, is about to be put on the auction block, Maggie convinces her new friends to capture Slim; the bounty on his head is just enough to save the farm from extinction. The laughs from the audience come at widely spaced intervals, since everyone is reacting to something entirely different; "Range" seems to exist in several time zones simultaneously. Unrestrained energy is hardly a bad thing for animation — the best cartoons are built on the contradictory pursuit of meticulously arranged anarchy — but they never seem needy, or desperate for laughs, as "Home on the Range" does. The film seems hungrier for a pat on the head than a chuckle. — Elvis Mitchell
2004-04-02 | Elvis Mitchell | Read the New York Times Review of Home on the Range