Haley Joel Osment as Beary Barrington (voice)
Diedrich Bader as Officer Cheets, Ted Bedderhead (voice)
Candy Ford as Trixie St. Claire (voice)
M.C. Gainey as Roadie
James Gammon as Big Al (voice)
Brad Garrett as Fred Bedderhead (voice)
Julianne Buescher as Tennessee (voice)
Stephen Root as Zeb Zoober (voice)
Daryl Mitchell as Officer Hamm
Christopher Walken as Reed Thimple
Stephen Tobolowsky as Mr. Barrington
Meagen Fay as Mrs. Barrington
Eli Marienthal as Dex Barrington
Alex Rocco as Rip Holland
Willie Nelson as Himself
Elton John as Himself
Krystal as Miss Krystal
Don Henley as Himself
Bonnie Raitt as Herself
Brian Setzer as Himself
Queen Latifah as ‘Cha-Cha’ the bartender
Jennifer Paige as Waitress
With a ton of cameos and good music, The Country Bears isn’t quite the mind numbing experience you’d think it would be. It’s a Blues Brothers rip off with bears.
What’s It About:
Beary is the adopted son of the Barrington family. He’s happy and loved by his parents, but he doesn’t quite feel that he fits in. It never occurs to him that he’s different because he’s a bear. After some taunting by his brother, Beary runs away from home. He feels that the only place he can feel like part of a family is at Country Bear Hall with his heroes, a band called the Country Bears. Beary is their biggest fan despite them having broken up 10 years earlier.
When he arrives at Country Bear Hall, he finds it run down and about to be demolished by the banker Reed Thimple. The only way it can be saved is if they raise $20,000 in 4 days. Beary gets the bright idea to host a Country Bear reunion concert. Thus begins a road trip to get the band back together. What Beary doesn’t know is that the Barrington family believes he was kidnapped and a couple of cops by the name of Hamm and Cheets are hot on his trail to take him home.
The Country Bears is rated G.
I took my 3 yr old to this film really expecting to hate it. I was very much turned off by Disney’s idea to turn one of their theme park attractions into a movie. Plus, the trailer looked rather horrific, too. Thirty minutes into the film I thought I was right. However, as the road trip in the movie started up, the movie began to pick up. The movie ended up not only being tolerable, but it generated a few good laughs along the way.
The plot is a total rip off of the Blues Brothers. Both movies have some misfits (being pursued by the cops) trying to get their old popular band back together for a big concert to raise money to save some place. The only difference is that this film doesn’t have Nazis. It’s a rather blatant ripoff, but if you’re going to steal, steal from the best. The road trip concept allows them to feature a ton of cameos in the film. One of the best featured Don Henley and Bonnie Raitt. As two bears sang a duet on stage in a bar (using Henley and Raitt’s voices), the two singers comment on how great the bears are at singing. It was a cute little scene that went totally over the kids’ heads but the adults enjoyed it. There’s also a great musical duel between one of the bears and Brian Setzer of the Stray Cats. Also look for cameos by Elton John as a gardner, Wille Nelson, Queen Latifah, and more. Disney must have really called in the favors for this one.
The music in the movie was also surprisingly good. There was a nice mix of country, rock, hip hop, and more. As previously mentioned, Henley and Raitt provide a memorable duet that is one of the better original songs. They also return for part of the finale which was good. Disney trots out a couple of their teen stars that were also pretty good. Krystal and Jennifer Paige deliver two fun and energetic musical numbers.
The rest of the cast is fairly unmemorable, but Christopher Walken is fun as the evil banker with a hidden secret. He has a couple of hilarious scenes that I really can’t believe he did. I won’t spoil them for you here. Alex Rocco also has a fun cameo as Rip Holland, the Bears’ pathetic ex-promoter. Between the hair and his amusing office location, he’s one of the funnier characters in the movie.
So if your kids drag you to this movie, don’t be too scared. You just might enjoy it.
What Didn’t Work:
One of the first things that bothered me was the cops and the whole kidnapping sub-plot. After seeing the media highlight the kidnappings of several young girls recently, it’s not terribly amusing to see The Country Bears try to make jokes about Beary being supposedly kidnapped. They try to make the crying mother and father funny, then they make the cops about as competent as Barney Fife. The cops are then portrayed as the bad guys as they try to save Beary from the suspected kidnappers. It’s actually rather disturbing. To top it off, the cops mysteriously disappear for the last third of the film.
The plot in this film is really secondary to the musical numbers. I wish they could have come up with something a little more original than they did. The fact that they were still able to make some funny moments out of this shows they had the potential to pull off something bigger. Also, the fact that it takes so long to get rolling means that the movie may alienate some of its viewers before it really gets rolling.
Though this film worked for the most part, I still don’t like the idea of making movies from the attractions at Disney Theme parts. This is only the first of several which they have planned. (I believe the next is Pirates of the Caribbean.) Disney is always being accused of being commercial and unoriginal. This only justifies that perception. The films end up being an hour and a half commercial for their parks.
In the end, this film is fun for kids and tolerable for adults. I think this one may be more of a renter than anything, but you shouldn’t make a great effort to avoid it.