Disney’s The Country Bears is wrong on so many levels that the effect tends to be dizzying. First off, basing an entire movie on one of their theme-park attractions just reeks of shameless self-promotion. What next, Escape from Space Mountain?
And let’s face it: People dressed up as critters is just plain creepy. Clowns are bad enough, but when someone suits up as a creature, it just exudes an aura of wrongness. It’s all well and fine if an actor is zippering up as the Creature from the Black Lagoon, where it’s supposed to be scary. But when you have a bunch of yahoos running around trying to evoke anthropomorphic empathy, you’ve got an uphill battle on your hands. Call it the Banana Splits Syndrome. Egads.
The Country Bears disregards that factor and even ups the ante by casting Haley Joel Osment as the little kid bear that runs away from his adoptive parents’ home to join up with the titular characters’ roadshow. If you’ve seen A.I., there’s a hinky vibe here that Osment’s character from Spielberg’s misbegotten attempt to play Kubrick somehow got his identity reprogrammed into his walkin’ talkin’ teddy bear sidekick’s body.
Throw in a slumming Christopher Walken (at one point forced to wander around in boxers and bunny slippers) to up the creepy level, add a migraine-inducing pop-country soundtrack and stale gags that wouldn’t charm Henny Youngman, and you’ve got a tepid mess that moves at the pace of spilled honey in a Montana winter.
If the recent Stuart Little 2 helped me rediscover my inner child, The Country Bears just aborted it.