THE COUNTRY BEARS (2002)
Holy crap, guys. It’s time for The Country Bears. I’ve been looking forward to this one all year. A bunch of terrifying animatronic bears dancing around? Based on an amusement park ride? How can this movie not be a huge jaw-dropping shitshow?
Oh. It’s not really a shitshow after all (or at least not the enjoyable kind). It’s just The Blue Brothers but with bears. And without the celebrities. Or the good music. Or the fun.
This movie could have been saved by a run-in with some Illinois Nazis.
A bunch of bears (Diedrich Bader, Candy Ford, James Gammon, Brad Garrett, Toby Huss, Kevin Michael Richardson, and Stephen Root) have to get their old band back together, so that they can save Country Bear Hall.
From Christopher Walken!
Along the way, people who are almost celebrities break into song.
I have no idea who Jennifer Paige is, but I assume Disney was hoping she was about to be famous.
Elton John shows up and fails to break into song.
He looks like a sad beekeeper.
In the end, they save the hall.
Wooo! That is all.
Okay, so the character who brings those boring Country Bears back together is yet another ursine, Beary Bearington (Haley Joel Osment). But this one is a kid who’s been adopted by a nice human family (Stephen Tobolowsky and Meagen Fay). His brother Dex (Eli Marienthal) is the only one who seems to notice any thing different about Beary. Nobody thinks it’s weird that his parents are raising a wild animal as their own child, he wonders? Has the world gone mad?
How could humans adopting an animal be anything but ridiculous, right?
Ah, but if you bear in mind that this is a universe where giant anthropomorphic talking bears not only exist, but are sufficiently integrated into society to form a major rock group, Dex’s behavior towards Beary is downright shitty. In this universe, talking bears aren’t an oddity, they’re a minority group. Dex is just a privileged white kid, outraged by the race of his adopted brother. Dex goes so far as to say that Beary is ruining the family. “You don’t belong here,” he snipes. Shit.
The fact that the government still uses radio collars on baby bears is also exceedingly troubling.
To escape from the isolation he feels, he turns to the Country Bears. Being able to look up and see cultural figures who look like him helps Beary feel less like a outsider. It shows him that there is a place for bears like him in society. In this context, the film transcends its cookie-cutter save-the-community-center plot to become a message about how important it can be for the media to provide diverse role models.
Aww, he gets to meet his heroes! (His terrifying, dead-eyed heroes.)
Having said all this, I get the feeling that none of this was intentional, so don’t give the movie too much credit.
WHY DON’T PEOPLE LIKE IT?:
The Country Bears is flat-out boring. But it takes more than a complete lack of compelling material to truly sink a Disney movie. No, I blame The Country Bears‘ demise on how entirely creepy those giant puppets look.
There is something chilling in those eyes.
I really hate to condemn these puppets. It’s rare to see so many practical effects once you hit the age of CG, and there is no doubt in my mind that this movie would be far worse if the bears were computer-generated monstrosities. But still, ech. They’re just real enough to land solidly in the unbearable valley.
Be gone with you.
I really suspect that the popularity of the old Country Bear Jamboree was grossly overestimated when the film was pushed into production. It could have been worse, though. They could have included the terrifying singing mounted animal heads that grace the walls of the actual attraction.
MOST REGRETTABLE MOMENT:
I’m going to take this in a slightly different direction this week. The thing that I find most regrettable about this film is that it contains three or four top-notch jokes that belonged in an infinitely better movie. They’re too funny not to be seen, but not good enough to justify watching the rest of the movie. Sorry, jokes, you’re trapped in movie limbo forever. Just in case some better movie steals these little nuggets of humor, I’ll refrain from spoiling any of them. Here’s one more creepy bear picture for the road.
Enough of that.
Neither good nor bad enough to be enjoyable, there is sadly no reason to watch The Country Bears. With a little work, all those creepy puppets could have been part of a truly awful film, but as it stands, they’re just adding to a pile of mediocrity.
Confessions of a Teenage Drama Queen (2004)
This is John’s thirty-ninth week of the experiment. Check up on his sanity in his third quarterly report.