The Country Bears (2002)
Review by HTQ4

Written by Mark Perez
Directed by Peter Hastings

Starring Haley Joel Osment, Diedrich Bader, Candy Ford, James Gammon, Brad Garrett, Toby Huss, Kevin Michael Richardson, Stephen Root, and Christopher Walken
Anamorphic: No, it appears in 1.33:1 format
My Advice: Skip it

Apparently, The Country Bears were a group of musicians that took the world by storm, but they broke up in 1991. Their biggest fan is a young bear, appropriately named Beary, who is being raised by human parents. (We are supposed to assume that humans and bears can talk and live together in harmony.) After his step-brother gives him a hard time for being a bear, he decides to run away from home and seek out his heroes. When he goes to the legendary Country Bear Hall, he finds that it is going to be demolished because they can't afford to pay the mortgage anymore. There's only one thing to do: get the Bears back together for a reunion concert to raise the money they need to save the Hall.

There are absolutely no redeeming features about this movie whatsoever. It all starts with the writing of this movie, which is purely dismal. The plot is so contrived it feels like a very tight pair of pants. I personally think that a tight pair of pants would feel more comfortable. Not to mention the fact that the inevitable ending of the flick was given away in the theatrical trailer. Anyway, when you add poor acting to the mix and it just gets worse. How they got Christopher Walken to agree to do this flick is beyond my level of comprehension. Almost all of the other cast members are just cameo appearances by various recording artists, and they aren't even that good, either. The story is so completely stupid that its almost laughable. Not only that, but there is more disco music in this movie than there is country. You'd think that a movie called "The Country Bears" would be crammed with country music, but almost every song used in this movie is a 70s disco number.

The DVD is not that much better. Let's start with the commentary track, which is, frankly, a waste of time. What you get is the director talking about making the movie with two characters from the film, the Bears Ted and Zed. It has the feel of a mockumentary; the characters talking about the shoot and their history in character. This can sometimes be funny (see Spinal Tap), but these guys just aren't. Nor are they clever. If you didn't get enough of the mockumentary feel, there is a full-fledged one on this disc. It's not very funny either. It's full of the various recording artists talking about how they wouldn't be where they are today if it hadn't been for the Bears. It also goes into how the music industry and fame got the best of them and they broke up. It's funny how none of this stuff made it into the movie...

Probably the greatest affront on the DVD side of things is the fact that the film is presented full-screen only. Now, I'm sure this isn't on anybody's list of flicks to check out on a high-def TV or anything like that--and I know it's a family-friendly flick where nobody wants to explain to their six-year-old what's up with the bars at the top and the bottom of the screen...but still. Couldn't we have had a choice of formats? Huge point suck there.

They also saw fit to put a concert special, which aired on ABC, on the disc as well. It has the same feel as the mockumentary, it just includes more concert footage. There is also an option to turn each of the songs in the movie into a little karaoke machine, but it's not worth it, because none of the songs are worth singing to. To make matters worse, there is a music video on the DVD, but is it the Country Bears? Oh no, it's Krystal singing her R&B number from the movie, and it almost looks like it's the same shots that are used in the movie. The only thing on the DVD that seems even remotely "kid-oriented" is the make your own country bears music video. Hey, look on the positive side, you don't have to worry about making the lip sync match the music track, right? Also, I couldn't help noticing that almost every movie in the "Sneak Peeks" section was a sequel to some other Disney movie. You could almost hear Disney's stock price dropping.

The soundtrack fares a little better, simply because it has some country on it. John Hiatt is here, providing songs and also the singing voice of Ted. I'm not into him myself just because of his voice, although the live version of "Straight to the Heart of Love" has some great music behind it. Still, give me Lyle Lovett any day instead. Also of note is Bonnie Raitt, dueting with Don Henley on "Can Love Stand the Test", which is the best "serious" song on the disc. Brian Setzer and company doing "I'm Only In It For the Honey" is cute, but that's about it. Still, the best song on the entire soundtrack is Bela Fleck's "Bear Mountain Hop," and alas, it's the shortest. Basically, if you enjoy the film, you'll probably enjoy the soundtrack as well. Although it doesn't seem to be coherent enough to stand on its own. A kiddie version of Down From the Mountain would have made the most sense, but we didn't exactly get that.

So, I would say that there is nothing that even puts this movie on the rental list. Disney should be sorry that they let this one slip past the pre-production stage.

Discuss the review in the Gabfest!

Greetings to our visitors from the IMDB, OFCS, and Rotten Tomatoes!
Stick around and have some coffee!