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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » The Country Bears
The Country Bears
Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment // G // December 17, 2002
List Price: $29.99 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Mike Long | posted January 26, 2003 | E-mail the Author
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The Movie

You may be aware that a film based on the Disney attraction "The Pirates of the Carribean" is coming to screens this summer, or that Eddie Murphy's next project is a big-screen version of the "Haunted Mansion" ride. But, another film based on a Disney show, "The Country Bears" beat both of those to the screen, and is now available on DVD. But, the fact that there is a trend here doesn't answer the question -- Who thought that this was a good idea?

"The Country Bears" takes the familiar animatronic bear-band and gives them a fictionalized history. In the film, the band was a huge country-rock combo that dominated the charts in the '70s. But, they had a falling out and parted ways. As the film opens, we meet Beary Barrington (voiced by Haley Joel Osment), a young bear who worships The Country Bears. As he doesn't feel that he fits in with his adopted human family, Beary hits the road to find The Country Bears. When he reaches fabled Country Bear Hall (where the Bears had all of the finest concerts), Beary learns that a sinister banker (Christopher Walken) is going to tear down the Hall unless the Bears can come up with $20,000. Beary urges Fred (voiced by Brad Garrett) to get the band back together so that the Hall can be saved. But, can Fred convinced the other Bears to reunite?

Despite the fact that this is a family/children's film, "The Country Bears" is one of the oddest films that I've ever seen, and that's saying a lot. The film is essentially a road-movie -- but going deeper the that, "The Country Bears" is really a re-make of "The Blues Brothers", but instead of Belushi, we have bears. And I don't mean that in a flip sense, this movie has all of the plot-points of "The Blues Brothers" -- the need to raise money, getting the band back together, finding one of the members in a very posh environment, a music number in a diner, etc. The youngsters watching this film shouldn't recognize these elements, but it should be very obvious to anyone who's the least bit familiar with "The Blues Brothers" should be bowled over by the similarities. Add to that all of the in-jokes concerning 70's bands, and you've got an odd film.

Those oddities aside (which leaves basically nothing), will the film's target audience enjoy it? I really don't know. The story is weak. The musical numbers are very inspired. The movie isn't very funny or particularly moving. So, that all adds up to a big "No". The Beary character is woefully underwritten, and despite the fact that the Bears appear to be travelling cross-country, the entire film seems to take place in a 10 square-mile area.

The only reason that this film should be of interest to anyone are the humans that apprear in the film, such as Diedrich Bader, Queen Latifah, Elton John, and Brian Setzer. But, it's the whacked out Christopher Walken that really steals the show. Did he even see a script?

Video

As if there were any doubt that "The Country Bears" was aimed at a kiddie market, the DVD offers only a full-frame version of the film. Still, the image is quite clear and sharp, showing only the slightest hint of grain, and sporadic artifacting. The transfer doesn't show any of the usual pixellating or loss of detail that accompanies full-frame presentations. The film offers a natural color palette and all of the hues look very good here. Overall, despite the lack of a widescreen presentation, an acceptable transfer.

Audio

This DVD features an impressive Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track. From the outset, it's clear that the music offered in "The Country Bears" is going to sound great. The track reproduces the music with a bold sound that fills the speakers and adds a nice touch of bass. The dialogue is clear and audible, and the track shows no hissing. Surround effects are used sparingly, but sound very good.

Extras

As odd as the film is, the extras are even stranger. We start with an audio commentary which features director Peter Hasting, as well as band members Ted (voiced by Diedrich Bader) and Zeb (voiced by Stephen Root). The fact that two bears are on this commentary makes for some humorous moments, but it also keeps the talk from being highly informative. Bader and Root are more interested in cutting-up than in letting Hastings discuss the specifics of the film.

Next, we have two "mockumentaries". The first "The Country Bears: Out of the Woods" is a 14-minute parody of VH-1's "Behind the Music", as it examines the rise and fall of the Bears. This segment is actually much funnier than the movie. Somewhat less satisfying (and not just because Downtown Julie Brown hosts it) is the 22-minute "The Country Bears Concert for America", which is essentially a Country Bears concert. The music is a bit dull, but the Bears backstage hi-jinks are funny.

"Video Mix Master Jamboree" gives viewers the chance to create their own Country Bears music video by editing together five shots. The interaction continues with a sing-a-long feature, which adds the lyrics to the film (in subtitle form) as you watch the movie. And finally, we have a music video by Krystal Marie Harris for the song "The Kid in You".

To put it very simply, "The Contry Bears" is an odd, odd movie which probably won't appeal to adults or children. Still, if you're a fan of singing bears, or just watch to watch Christopher Walken freak out, then you can probably do worse.
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