The Country Bears

The Country Bears is about a young bear that reunites the old, fictional band to save their beloved concert Hall. In a dazzling display of irony, The Country Bear Jamboree (which inspired the movie) was recently shuttered at Disneyland (it still plays at Disneyworld). Guess no young bear was able to save this attraction. That goes for the Disneyland show and the movie. The Country Bears is a strange movie that plays well only to small children. Anybody with half a brain will be shaking their heads in wonderment. What exactly is the purpose of this film? To promote a show no longer there? To make kids laugh (it does okay in this sense)? It is a decidedly low-tech movie, basically eschewing elaborate special effects in favor of people wearing bear suits. The bear suits are decent; they are good, but not great.

The young bear is Beary Barrington (voiced by Haley Joel Osment, A.I., Pay It Forward), a young bear growing up as a human. In the world of Mark Perez's (Frank McKlusky, C.I.) script, nobody seems to realize that Beary is a bear and not a human. The only person that realizes this is Beary's brother Dex (Eli Marienthal, Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back, American Pie 2). Like most pesky brothers, Dex plays on Beary's fear of belonging, and causes him to run away. Beary decides to go to the old Country Bear Hall, where the Bears once played. There, he learns that Reed Thimple (Christopher Walken, The Affair of the Necklace, America's Sweethearts), a greedy banker, is out to demolish the hall unless it can pay back its loan. Beary decides he wants to reunite the Bears (who broke up a decade ago) and stage a benefit concert.

The music is a nice touch. John Hiatt wrote many of the songs, and he, along with others, including Bonnie Raitt and Don Henley provide some of the singing voices. But, this is just the music of the Bears, who would probably fall under the broad category of southern rock, or even country. A number of other singers like Brian Setzer, Jennifer Paige (oops, a couple years too late) and Krystal Harris (who?) sing some bland songs, and even more have cameos which should amuse parents. All in all, this feels like O Brother Where Art Thou?-lite.

The Country Bears plays like a kiddie version of Behind the Music. Beary and some other bears drive around the country looking to find the individual bears for the reunion. Meanwhile, Beary's parents believe the Bears kidnapped him, so they send a pair of inept policeman after them. Part of the reason it is so unsatisfying is that Perez and director Peter Hastings never fully explain why the bears broke up in the first place. They never spend enough time individually with each bear for the audience to make a distinction between them. Let's see, one has a girlfriend, two are brothers, but what else? There's no way to tell. As such, the situation with the Country Bears mimics Beary's family predicament. The big moral of this story is that family is important no matter what, and that "the people that love you, that's you're family." Everything, even this moral, has a bland quality about it; there is nothing to distinguish The Country Bears as something special.

Haro Rates It: Not That Good.
1 hour, 28 minutes, Rated G.

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