The Country Bears is an underappreciated Disney film but this old-school film still rocks it nearly eighteen years after its theatrical release.
Much like The Blues Brothers, this is a film that requires a fundraiser. In this particular instance, the fundraiser is a concert to save Country Bear Hall. Taking a cue from the 1980 musical comedy, the band isn’t together and needs to be reunited. This is where Beary Barrington (Haley Joel Osment) comes into play. He’s a huge fan and runs away from home after his brother spills the beans on his true background.
Beary is disappointed to learn the news about the band from property caretaker Big Al and manager Henry Dixen Taylor. Reed Thimple (Christopher Walken), a banker, is threatening the concert hall with destruction. I don’t know if Beary has seen The Blues Brothers but he suggests putting on a benefit concert and reuniting the band for the first time since 1991. Of course, it’s easier said than done. Meanwhile, Officers Cheets (Diedrich Bader) and Hamm (Daryl Mitchell) are looking into Beary’s disappearance.
This is one of the first films to be inspired by an attraction at either Disneyland or Walt Disney World. The film takes its inspiration from Walt Disney’s Country Bear Jamboree. You might not be able to find the Bears at Disneyland anymore but they’re still alive and well at Walt Disney World. One year later, the Pirates of the Carribean would take the world by storm. However, I’m not here today to discuss the pirates but the world-famous band.
I don’t claim to be a fan of country music. I’m more of a classic rock fan myself but the music here rocks. John Hiatt makes some awesome contributions to the film in terms of music. Jennifer Paige belts out “Kick It Into Gear” and the song still rocks plenty of years later. And then there’s “Straight to the Heart of Love,” another one of my favorites on the film’s soundtrack. This is a film that doesn’t live or die on the animatronics but by the music itself. Peter Hastings has a solid grasp in his direction behind the camera.
The Country Bears themselves consist of Ted (Diedrich Bader), Trixie (Candy Ford), Fred (Brad Garrett), Tennessee (Toby Huss), Zeb (Stephen Root), property caretaker Big Al (James Gammon), and manager Henry (Kevin Michael Richardson).
This film has a new life on streaming because of Disney+. One can also look at this film as an evolution in animatronics vs. CGI. One cannot make this film today without capturing performances over CGI. The performances themselves would probably require some sort of practical effects.
The Country Bears may not be a perfect film but it’s still a lot of fun to watch.
DIRECTOR: Peter Hastings
SCREENWRITER: Mark Perez
CAST: Christopher Walken, Stephen Tobolowsky, Daryl “Chill” Mitchell, M.C. Gainey, Diedrich Bader, Alex Rocco, Meagen Fay, Eli Marienthal, and Haley Joel Osment