The Country Bears is a 2002 live-action film produced by Walt Disney Pictures, based on the Disney attraction Country Bear Jamboree. It was Disney's third movie based on a ride or attraction, following Mission to Mars (2000), and followed by Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl and The Haunted Mansion, both released in 2003. It was released on July 26, 2002.
Beary Barrington (Haley Joel Osment, singing voice by Elizabeth Daily), a young bear raised by a human family in a world where humans and talking bears coexist, attempts to trace his roots. He is obsessed with the Country Bears, a long-since broken-up band, a parody of bands like the Eagles. According to several documentaries, they did have great times and a large number of hits but after their hibernation tour in '91, the band called it quits and went their separate ways. After constantly getting teased by his brother Dexter, Beary runs away and begins searching for who he truly is. After arriving at Country Bear Hall he sees that the hall is going to be demolished as they are several years behind on payment. Beary meets up with Henry, the manager of the band, and he talks about all the great times at the Country Bears Hall. Beary decides to help the Country Bears reunite for one final concert to help save the place and while refusing the idea at first, Henry agrees especially after hearing Beary playing one of their songs.
Soon they get the van and, with the band's drummer, Roadie's help, set out to find the others. First they pick up Fred Bedderhead, the harmonica player and crowd surfer who is working at a TV studio. After arriving, they tell Fred their idea of getting the band back together, Fred agrees to it if they get their publicist, Rip Holland to promote the show. Rip agrees, especially since the break up he lost his office. Next they go to get Zeb Zoober the fiddle player, who has been spending his days at a honey bar. While searching for Zeb, Beary shows off his scrapbook of the band on the bus. One picture in the scrapbook is from when the Bears made their official debut at a talent show, in which they beat a boy named Benny Boggswaggle who could perform a symphony with only his armpit farts. Benny was also a sore loser which resulted in him throwing a chair at Zeb. They find Zeb in Nuttville, and he is eager to get the band back together. Unfortunately, Zeb has a tab worth $500 to pay off, which he can't. To help, Beary make a deal with the waitress, he challenges one of the servers and the house band to a duel. If Zeb wins, the tab will be dropped; if Zeb loses, however the server gets the tour bus. In the end, Zeb wins the duel especially after his amazing playing comeback. Before long they find Tennessee O'Neal who now works as a couple's counselor, unfortunately, he is very depressed especially after the love of his life (as well as the band's keyboard player), Trixie St. Clare, left him for another. They tell Tennessee their plan, and he joins them but is still depressed. Meanwhile, the police are looking for Beary and even after searching Country Bear Hall, they make the assumption that the boy was kidnapped.
While at a diner, they run into more fans, especially a waitress who hopes to be a singer someday soon as they inspired her to sing. She soon starts in on a dance number but seconds after the song ends, the report that Beary was kidnapped by Henry is on the news, Henry tells them that Beary wasn't kidnapped it was all a misunderstanding. Suddenly the two police officers arrive at the diner, so they try to slip away unnoticed but they notice Beary getting on the bus. Roadie manages to lose the police officers in the car wash when the officers get out of the car. The bears spend the night at a motel and Beary calls Dexter to tell him he's okay and he's going to stay with the band. At the motel, they discover Trixie is performing nearby and Tennessee gets his love back. Next the Bears go to find Ted Bedderhead, the leader of the band and Fred's older brother, but Ted is in no mood to get back with the band because he made it clear when he said he was done with the band, but after seeing Ted with a wedding band, they remain convinced that even Ted couldn't give up the music. When Ted asks how the concert is going, he becomes angry when he finds out they haven't planned anything out. Ted also tells everyone he was the reason they all stayed together--without him they were either drinking, blubbering or staring into space.
Thanks to Beary, the Country Bears realize how wrong they were to break up, which they did due to various petty arguments that escalated, and Beary returns home to his family who he realized truly do care about him, even his brother who somewhat bullies him. The Bears, after reading an essay Beary wrote about them realize how much impact they had on many people's lives, but mainly Beary's. Beary has done several projects based on the band and despite getting a good grade, his teacher wrote "Well done, but does everything have to be about the Country Bears?" After hearing the essay, they decide to do the concert to save Country Bear Hall, but refuse to do so without Beary, as he was the one who brought them back together. Ted goes over to Beary's house (as Beary is starting to take down his posters out of anger, he stops when Ted comes in), then apologizes and tells Beary how much he has helped them.
They go to the hall and his family comes along, but while Ted is apologizing to Beary, Thimple (Christopher Walken), the villain who wants to destroy Country Bear Hall at all costs, kidnaps the rest of the Bears. They eventually discover Thimple is really Benny Boggswaggle, who lost to the Country Bears 30 years ago and wants revenge on them for losing his one chance at fame. He keeps them locked up until the hall is demolished.
Thanks to an idea from Dex, Beary's older brother, Ted, Beary, and Beary's family are able to track down and rescue the Bears and head to the concert together. Unfortunately the guy they hired to promote it was paid off by Thimble not to and didn't, so it looks like they aren't going to be able to save the Hall after all. Suddenly Big Al, the caretaker of the hall reveals that everyone was just out back (he didn't want them messing up the grass) and when he opens the door and a massive amount of people rush in. The money from the concert is revealed to be enough to save the hall and the Bears perform the concert with Beary now as a member of the band.
- Christopher Walken as Reed Thimple (former name "Benny Boggswaggle")
- M. C. Gainey as Roadie
- James Gammon as Big Al (cameo)
- Stephen Tobolowsky as Mr. Norbert Barrington
- Meagen Fay as Mrs. Norma Barrington
- Eli Marienthal as Dexter "Dex" Barrington
- Alex Rocco as Rip Holland
- Daryl Mitchell as Officer Hamm
- Krystal Harris as herself (cameo)
- Jennifer Paige as Waitress (cameo)
- Jess Harnell as Long-Haired Dude
- Willie Nelson as himself (cameo)
- Queen Latifah as "Cha-Cha" (cameo)
- Elton John as himself (cameo)
- Haley Joel Osment as Beary Barrington (speaking voice)
- Elizabeth Daily as Beary Barrington (singing voice)
- Kevin Michael Richardson as Henry Dixon Taylor
- John Hiatt as Ted Bedderhead (singing voice)
- Diedrich Bader as Ted Bedderhead (speaking voice)
- Brad Garrett as Fred Bedderhead (speaking voice)
- Stephen Root as Zeb Zoober (speaking voice)
- Toby Huss as Tennessee O'Neal (speaking voice)
- Don Henley as Tennessee O'Neal (singing voice)
- Candy Ford as Trixie St. Claire (speaking voice)
- Bonnie Raitt as Trixie St. Claire (singing voice)
- Alice Dinnean as Beary Barrington (face performer)
- Misty Rosas as Beary Barrington (in-suit performer)
- Allan Trautman as Fred Bedderhead (face performer)
- Kaepan Shaw as Fred Bedderhead (in-suit performer)
- Terri Hardin as Big Al (facial performer)
- John Alexander as Big Al (in-suit performer)
- Bruce Lanoil as Henry Dixon Taylor (face performer)
- Tom Fisher as Henry Dixon Taylor (in-suit performer)
- John Kennedy as Zeb Zoober (face performer)
- Tony Sabin Prince as Zeb Zoober (in-suit performer)
- Julianne Buescher as Tennessee O'Neal (face performer)
- Jody St. Michael as Tennessee O'Neal (in-suit performer)
- Terri Hardin as Trixie St. Claire (face performer)
- Denise Cheshire as Trixie St. Claire (in-suit performer)
- Michelan Sisti as Ted Bedderhead (face performer)
- Brian La Rosa as Ted Bedderhead (in-suit performer)
- "I'm Only In It for the Honey"
- "Where Nobody Knows My Name"
- "Straight to the Heart of Love"
- "Bear Mountain Hop"
- "Kick It Into Gear"
- "The Kid In You"
- "Let It Ride"
- "Just The Goin"
- "Can Love Stand The Test"
The bear suits and animatronic heads were created by Jim Henson's Creature Shop.
The film was a box office flop; budgeted at US $35 million, it grossed only $16,990,825 in the United States and an additional $1,021,272 overseas. The film was released on DVD and VHS in December 17, 2002. On Rotten Tomatoes, the film only received a 30% positive rating. Reception to The Country Bears was mixed. Film critic Roger Ebert said "the formidable technical skills in The Country Bears must not be allowed to distract from the film's terminal inanity." Critic Sean O'Connell said of the film "Bears is bad. Not 'terrible filmmaking' bad, but more like, 'I once had a nightmare like this, and it's now coming true' bad." It had a few positive reviews but most criticized it for lacking entertaining acting or an enjoyable storyline. Several critics and people who saw the movie also stated that they were expecting one movie but got something else.
- “Despite all the celebrities on hand, this spin-off from a theme park attraction still feels tired and hokey.”
- ―Rotten Tomatoes
Christopher Walken was nominated for a Razzie award for Worst Supporting Actor for his performance in the film.
The film's soundtrack, however, was praised as it included several original songs by big country stars at the time.
- Both Diedrich Bader and Stephen Root previous costarred together in Office Space and Ice Age.
- Both Stephen Root and Toby Huss previously costarred together in Fox’s animated comedy series King of the Hill.
- The film’s soundtrack was never released on iTunes, only on CD.
- This is Christopher Walken's first and only Disney movie until The Jungle Book.
- Gomer, Liver Lips McGrowl, Teddi Barra, and Zeke are referenced, but don't appear.