The Country Bears (2002)

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Well guys, I did it. I finally did it. I found a live-action Disney movie that’s worse than Prom and Old Dogs! You don’t even need to read the rest of this review; this is the worst live-action Disney movie that I’ve ever seen for this blog so far!

“Oh well, no need to read further. Byeeeee!”

Sigh…I guess the review must go on. Released in 2002, The Country Bears was the second theatrically-released Disney film based on one of their park attractions.

But, it was the first one to be released through the Walt Disney Studios label itself! Also, Disney made a Tower of Terror TV movie back in the day, so this is technically the 3rd “based-on-a-park-attraction” Disney movie!

For many people, the Country Bear Jamboree attraction at the Disney parks, is somewhat of a cult classic. It’s a beloved must-see for many! I personally have only been on it once, despite having gone to Magic Kingdom multiple times in my life. I actually went on it last year, to be precise, and…I wasn’t a fan of it at all!

“Burn him!”

So when it came time for me to watch this movie, I was hoping it would be better than the attraction…sadly, it wasn’t. Without further ado, let’s take a look at The Country Bears.

And remember, SPOILERS AHEAD!

The movie begins with an introductory montage of the Country Bears. They were apparently a popular country rock band back in the day who, like all other rock bands, have since split up.

So, which one’s Zayn?

Fast-forward a few years later where we meet a young bear cub named Beary, voiced by Haley Joel Osment. Beary is a huge fan of the Country Bears, the #1 fan, to be precise. He has listened to all their music, collected all their albums and memorabilia, etc.

But, he himself is in a bit of an odd situation as he is the “adopted son” of a human family. Apparently, the Barringtons adopted him years ago and never told Beary about it, although he’s long suspected that he’s different from his “parents”, played by Stephen Tobolowsky and Meagen Fay. Beary’s elder “brother”, Dex, played by Eli Marienthal, is the only one to recognize Beary as a bear when the adults don’t see it. (This lends itself to a running gag throughout the film.)

I feel I’ve just jumped straight into the movie! Usually the character goes through a few events at the beginning of the film which then lead to them questioning if they really belong, maybe around 15-20 minutes afterwards? Here, we’re only 4 minutes in and we’re already supposed to feel for Beary!

When Dex tells Beary the truth about who he is, Beary feels bad and decides to go find his own destiny himself. He runs away from home and heads for the famous Country Bear Hall, the venue where the Country Bears used to play.

This reminds me of Wild Hearts Can’t Be Broken.

When he arrives there, he discovers that the venue is in danger of being closed down by a ruthless banker, Mr. Thimple, played by Christopher Walken. If the overdue rent isn’t paid soon, the Country Bear Hall will be history!

But Beary has an idea that he tells one of the bears who is there: why not get the rest of the band together (there are like six of them) and do a reunion show at the Country Bear Hall to raise money? At first, this idea is pooh-poohed, but eventually it becomes the plan of action. Beary goes along with that bear in the official Country Bear bus trying to rally up all the ex-members.

22 minutes in and FINALLY someone asks who the heck this Beary kid is!

And this is what the majority of the film focuses on! I’m skipping through most of the details because they’re honestly not that important and I have a hard time keeping track of which bear is which. 

While this is going on, Beary’s “parents” have informed two officers, played by Diedrich Bader and Daryl Mitchell, about their “son” being presumably kidnapped.

There’s just something odd about this world where humans and bears live together and nobody recognizes the bears!

Once all the bears (voiced by Diedrich Bader, Candy Ford, Toby Huss, James Gammon, Brad Garrett, Kevin Michael Richardson, and Stephen Root) have agreed to come back together as a band (after settling some minor disputes), they are kidnapped by Mr. Thimple. You see, Mr. Thimple doesn’t want to destroy Country Bear Hall just because he’s a ruthless banker; there’s a personal vendetta behind it all. Mr. Thimple is actually Benny Bogswaggle, an armpit musician who lost to the Country Bears in a talent show years ago when he was a young teen. Ever since then, he’s been planning his revenge to destroy the Country Bears and working hard towards that goal.

Christopher Walken playing armpit music…I wonder how high up on his resume is this film listed?

Luckily, Beary with the help of his parents (with whom he has reunited) and one of the other bears who wasn’t kidnapped is able to free the kidnapped bears, so the show can go on. The show is a success resulting in all the Country Bear Hall debts being paid off! Beary gets to perform on stage with the Country Bears at their request and Mr. Thimple…

seems to have been ejected out of the movie. I hope they weren’t planning a sequel!

And that was basically The Country Bears. Oh, I’m so glad that’s over! This movie literally exists just as a reason to give the Country Bear Jamboree their own movie! The plot is incredibly weak with little to no conflict for the most part, or if there is, it’s solved incredibly quickly! For example, two of the bears were a couple back in the day, but broke up years ago. Now, when they’re meeting again after so long, all the previous hesitation that they had is gone and they become a couple again just like that!

Also, you may have noticed that I haven’t named any of the bears and just refer to them collectively like the Muppets. This is because there are so many of them and I get confused with who is who, what their names are, and what their individual roles in the band are. And honestly, it doesn’t really matter…which is another downside to the film!

At least Armpit Musician Man is memorable!

I suppose if I have to list something that I’ve enjoyed from the film, it would have to be Christopher Walken’s dialogue delivery; that’s always a treat to the ear! And in terms of acting, Eli Marienthal and all the performers (both physical, speaking voice, and singing voice) of the bears did decent jobs. But, all the other adult actors realize that this is just a “B movie” and play it as such. Interestingly enough, there are a lot of cameos in this film such as Willie Nelson, Wyclef Jean, Queen Latifah, and Elton John!

I wonder how the heck they got Elton John to do this movie!

And for a movie wherein music played an important element to the film (including having random song-and-dance numbers throughout the film), almost none of the music is good, in my opinion! The only song that I thought was good was Kick It Into Gear. Other than that, the music was a disappointment.

All in all, this film is a real disappointment! I hate to say this, but give me the attraction any day…although to many of you that’s actually a praiseworthy thing to say!

(You can click on the image below for an enlarged version of my rating sheet.)

So, the final score for this film is 9/35 = 25.71% (F) !

The next review will be posted on October 9, 2017.

13 thoughts on “The Country Bears (2002)

  1. Ah, so my hunch about the teaser screencap was correct!

    As I’ve stated before, I saw this twice on DVD a while back, and I agree, the plot isn’t all that strong, and the antagonist is not compelling enough; but in regards to the music, I found at least three of the songs to be fairly satisfactory (my favorite of them being “Can Love Stand the Test”).

    In all, I can say this about THE COUNTRY BEARS: The filmmakers’ intentions were good, but ultimately, the end result wasn’t what it ought to have been….

  2. Dang, what little I had seen of it (mainly the Christopher Walken scenes) indicated that it was bad but clearly the shallowness on display knows no bounds!

    Also, its strange that Disney would try to create their own off-brand Muppets team when they already OWNED the Muppets and had already made two good to great films (even if they did underperform). That’s like discarding a perfectly good cake that you know everyone enjoys and replacing it with something worse!

  3. Am I the only one who loves this movie? I think the puppets are adorable, made by the Jim Henson company of course. And I laugh out loud at the humor.
    I don’t know, maybe I’m just nostalgic after growing up on this movie, but I love it.

  4. I came across this film on Disney+ and had to give it a viewing. I had no interest in seeing it when it first came out, but I kept seeing the thumbnail for it on the streaming service and wondering how could such an abomination could be created. How could Disney think that would have made money? After seeing this, I feel it totally should be a cult hit. It’s so odd yet so charming. The puppetry is impressive and the film has heart. It follows the story and formula of the Blues Brothers pretty blatantly, but the bear suits let this film stand out on its own. Christopher Walken is Christopher Walken. He’s one of those actors who can play amazing roles or just play a cheesy version of himself, like Samuel L. Jackson when a movie just needs him to talk loud and swear. Walken goes full camp here.
    Another thing I like about the film is how it’s such a time capsule for the time it was produced. The film was shot from March to August, 2001, making it a fascinating look at pre-911 America as close to the tragedy as films can get. The true last gasp of the 90s.
    And Elton John saying “I hate Bears” during the credits. I can’t believe Disney allowed such a joke to make the cut in a film released at that time.

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