The Country Bears (2002) Rated: G for General audiences. Runtime: 88 mins. Director: Peter Hastings Writer: Mark Perez Tagline: They're legends. Bearly. Cast: Christopher Walken, Stephen Tobolowsky, Alex Rocco....complete cast Genre: Comedy/Family
Most memorable quote: "Your family are those that love you, no matter what"
John Belushi and Dan Aykroyd star in this musical comedy action fantasy about the broken down band, The Blues Brothers....Wait a minute, wrong movie. On second thought, just a couple of name changes here and there....Ok....now....Christopher Walken and Haley Joel Osment star in this musical comedy action fantasy about the broken down band, The Country Bears.
It is immediately obvious that the plot to The Country Bears is a child's version of 1980's The Blues Brothers, with it's has-been band on the roundup of its former members for one last reunion tour. The Blues Brothers worked on a massive scale for adults of its time and I think this one works for children of its time. We even see a coffee shop waitress do a musical number, a la Aretha Franklin, on top of the tables and chairs. It is very formulaic in its structure, but throw in some cute, cuddly bear characters, some armpit fart humor, a Herby the Love Bug type car chase and you have a humorous and entertaining film that is good and wholesome for kids up to the age of about ten. Older than that and I'm sure they wouldn't want to be caught dead watching it. For adults, other than the initially funny premise of a little bear running away to join the animated Country Bear Jamboree made famous in Disney world, the premise is a bit childish and immature, but then again, it's not for adults. Although they do sprinkle in a few cameo appearances by Don Henley, Bonnie Raitt, Brian Setzer, Queen Latifah and others as well as a few jokes and puns that only adults will get, it's target audience is children and it's only important that children get it.
Beary Barrington is a bear living in a human household who suddenly realizes that he doesn't belong. He runs away to Country Bear Hall only to find that it is about to be demolished by the sinister banker, Reed Thimple played by Christopher Walken. An interesting bit of casting here with Walken. He plays a good villian, but perhaps too good. Maybe he's a bit too creepy. In an attempt to raise the $20,000 needed for back payments, Beary convinces former member Henry to travel around the country to round up the old gang and perform a benefit concert to save the concert hall. Upon the discovery by his parents that he is missing, two police officers, Ham and Cheets (get it?) are dispatched to retrieve Beary from his believed kidnappers. We experience many hijinx and shenanigans along the way including a semi-funny car wash scene in which the officers are pulled from their cars and slapped with the brushes and sprayed with hot wax and soap. We also see that many of the bears have gone about their separate ways, some singing in weddings, some working security, and one has ruined his life by drowning his sorrows in honey.
The Country Bears is a heart-warming story with the message that being different doesn't mean being unloved. Even though all the bears in the movie are obviously different from humans, no one seems to notice and no one seems to care. With its simplistic story line and childish humor, I'm sure the producers realized that there's not much interest for adults watching soft, cuddly bears act on the screen so they hired the help of many aged rock stars delivering clever little quips in an attempt to make a connection with, and somehow entertain the parents. I found my self being more entertained by looking for similarities to The Blues Brothers and by watching the technical aspects of the animatronics, which by the way, were quite convincing from a technical standpoint.
I give The Country Bears the maximum babysitter factor as can be expected as well as a very high Julia Roberts factor due to the range of emotions involved. Even a car chase can't raise the macho factor above a zero as it was a bit too silly. No unexpected turns or disturbing afterthoughts, so big fat zeros in those categories. Reel rating for children is a 4 or 5, but a reel rating for adults is at best a 2. Don't go see it without a child! Frank Wilkins