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The Country Bears (G)
Walt Disney Pictures
Official Site
Director: Peter Hastings
Producers: Jeffrey Chernov, Andrew Gunn
Written by: Mark Perez
Cast: Haley Joel Osment, Christopher Walken, Diedrich Bader, Alex Rocco, Daryl “Chill” Mitchell, Meagen Fay, Stephen Tobolowsky, Eli Marienthal
Rating: out of 5

An adaptation of Disney’s theme park show that possesses the same animal characters, The Country Bears is a road-trip comedy aimed at a young audience. The film, a mixture of animatronics and veritable actors, falls short of making the children’s movies’ hall of fame. Most of the humor passes by a youthful audience throughout the first half of the film, and problems associated with promoting a reunion tour may prove too abstruse for younger children to follow. Consequently the humorous implications thereof may be lost on them. Although the dominant theme of self versus society can touch a chord with all viewers, especially children, some of the subplots seemed to me like unfinished dirges rather than complete, toe-tapping inspirations.

Aspiring musician Beary Barrington ( Osment), a bear adopted by a human family, feels misfitted, mainly due to constant prodding by his obnoxious brother Dex ( Marienthal), and despite attempts by his parents ( Fay and Tobolowsky) to treat him normally. He runs away from home to seek his idols, the disbanded Country Bears, in hopes of fitting in with the music legends. Upon arrival, Beary discovers that their old haunt is due for destruction, and that the Bears have gone their separate ways. Driven to find his place in the world, Beary’s save-the-day mentality propels the film forward, inciting a reunion and family amends in the end.

On a side note, for some odd reason, Beary’s parents employ two policemen, Officer Cheets and Officer Hamm ( Bader and Mitchell) to apprehend their son’s imagined kidnappers. Even though a running-away note was left behind and Dex insists he knows his brother’s whereabouts, the fatuous search for his trail continues. This subplot holds little virtue besides a few extra laughs, none of which came from me. At times it seems that the production crew of The Country Bears were too intent on creating amazing animatronic effects (which they succeeded in doing) rather than concentrating on the direction of the film.

Although the movie starts off slow, it picks up after a few of the heartening old bears join the bus trip to save Country Bear Hall. Some highlights for kids include the physical comedy-imbued car wash scene, mocking tributes to music videos, and the armpit avenger scenario. Also, famous and respectable musicians contribute a genuine embarrassment of cameos, including Willie Nelson, Queen Latifah, Elton John, Bonnie Raitt, Brian Setzer, Xzibit, and Wyclef Jean, creating enjoyable moments for the adults in the audience. Regardless of some of the mundane aspects of the film, Disney definitely has a handle on reeling in the star power and integrating music into their productions.

Props to Christopher Walken as Reed Thimple, the overwrought banker nemesis of the country group with a suspicious past who is out to destroy the hall. Of all the stars in this movie, Walken is the only one that shines. On the whole the movie is bearable for adults, slightly amusing for children, but ultimately fails to leave an impression.

Sandra Ogle


hybridCinema Ratings Guide:

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