One thing The Country Bears has in its favor is that the film keeps the plot simple. A convoluted storyline in which bears and humans interact would only make this even more painful to watch. Set in a music-video-type format where the bears and the humans sing and dance and have a grand old time the movie focuses on 11-year-old Beary Barrington (voiced by Haley Joel Osment) a young lad growing up with a very loving--and very human--family. Yet something doesn't feel right to Beary. Maybe it's because his jealous older brother Dex (Eli Marienthal) keeps telling him he has been adopted. Or maybe it's because he is a bear. Whatever the reason Beary feels connected only when he is playing his guitar and worshipping a hugely successful '60s rock band called The Country Bears--a quartet of big hairy fellows with names like Tennessee O'Neal Ted and Fred Bedderhead and Zeb Zoober who broke up over "creative differences" many moons ago. Beary decides to head out into the wild beyond to look for his true heroes--and find his place in the world. What he discovers is that the old Country Bear Hall where those wily bears used to perform is going to be torn down by the evil Reed Thimple (Christopher Walken. Yes we just said Christopher Walken.) Beary can't let this happen so he comes up with the plan to find the ex-Bears get them back together for a benefit concert and save the venue. Yee-haw.
Everyone associated with this film (from the actors to the long string of cameos by real-life musicians) surely believed they were making a fun-filled romp for the kiddies. You know "something to take the whole family to see " but they may not have realized how incredibly inane it would turn out to be. Or maybe Disney called in a lot of favors. Walken could have just lost a bet. The point is this--the human cast simply serves a purpose as the framework for the bears. Megan Fay and Stephen Tobolowsky are Beary's sugary-sweet mom and dad. Diedrich Bader and Daryl Mitchell play bumbling police officers looking for the hairy little fellow. Only Marienthal's Dex recognizes the absurdity of the situation--Beary is a bear and Marienthal gets to say probably all three of the best lines in the film. Cameos by artists such as Bonnie Raitt Don Henley and Elton John are fun but don't add much to the fray. Meanwhile the vocal talents are notable only when real-life singers like Raitt and Henley (who "sing" a duet as Tennessee and lady bear Trixie) and country singer John Hiatt (also as Tennessee) get to perform. Haley Joel Osment as the voice of Beary is more animated than the young actor has ever had the chance to be onscreen but there may be a reason for that--Osment is annoying as a chipper guy.
Most of us know about Disney theme parks and their most popular attractions--the Haunted House the Pirates of the Caribbean and of course the Country Bear Jamboree. Now Disney has gotten the bright idea to turn these attractions into movies--cashing in on the familiarity--and those singing dancing bears are the first guinea pigs. In other words Disney is grasping at straws. Granted the film is intended for children but let's not insult their intelligence as well. Besides a bad script so-so puppetry and sappy original songs the most bothersome thing about The Country Bears is that the bears walk and talk like their human counterparts have jobs eat in restaurants and play in rock-and-roll bands but there are only about six of them altogether. There aren't any other bears around. Or any other animals for that reason. At least in a Muppet movie the Muppets are everywhere and so it's understood they simply co-exist with humans. If you were to meet one of these Country Bears on the street you'd be very afraid.
November 15, 2001 1:15pm EST
Levelheaded Sean (Dr. Dre) and free-spirited Dee Loc (Snoop Dogg) are roommates. After getting fired from Footlocker and waking up to find his car booted Sean decides to take Dee Loc's suggestion and apply for a job at his workplace a full-service hand car wash. When the owner Mr. Washington (George Wallace) hires Sean to manage The Wash tensions flare between the two roommates. Dee Loc thinks Sean is on a power trip while Sean must deal with Dee Loc's side hustles in the car wash parking lot. But petty bickering turns out to be the least of their worries when local gang-banger Slim (DJ Pooh) kidnaps Mr. Washington for a $50 000 ransom. The plot thickens when disgruntled ex-employee Chris (Eminem) comes back to The Wash looking for revenge.
Dr. Dre portrays his character Sean fittingly well. In fact Sean's character is probably the only empathetic one; he's not as power hungry as he is depicted and comes across as someone who is trying to deal with a crappy situation as best he can. Snoop Dogg is also perfectly cast as Dee Loc a pot-dealing car washer who's always looking for something for nothing. Though both men have been typecast based on their personalities it works to the movie's advantage here: the two have great chemistry on screen. Wallace is hilarious as Mr. Washington as is DJ Pooh the not-too-bright kidnapper. There are a couple of great cameo appearances including Tommy Chong (of Cheech and Chong fame) as a weed supplier and Pauly Shore as some guy tied up in the trunk of a car. Also look for appearance by hip-hoppers Ludacris Kurupt and Snoop Dogg's Eastsidaz partners Tray Dee and Goldie Loc. But don't expect too much screen time from Eminem; he appears for maybe all of four minutes.
Writer/director DJ Pooh (Friday) came up with the concept for this homage to the 1976 comedy Car Wash during last year's Up In Smoke rap and hip-hop tour featuring both Dr. Dre and Snoop Dogg. (Perhaps The Wash is what happens when you write a script through a haze of bong smoke!) The film has some really funny moments like when Slim calls to give the ransom demands but forgets to block his name from appearing on the caller ID. But the overall pacing is off and the focus is a little um fuzzy. Only after Mr. Washington gets kidnapped (about half way through the film) does some sort of story start to develop. Up to that point the movie lacks momentum and a sense of focus. And with a background radio conspicuously announcing new songs by Dr. Dre and Snoop Dogg it feels a bit like a marketing vehicle for their music. Though The Wash doesn't compare to Friday it still generates some good laughs and showcases considerable talent.
Music lovers don't have to sit idly by listening to those worn-out Christmas tunes about a jolly old fat guy in a red suit. Who wants to listen to old music anyway when there's plenty of new music arriving in stores this December?
Here's what's coming to a music store near you in December:
Dec. 5 Releases
Rage Against the Machine will make their final political statement, at least with singer Zack de la Rocha, anyway, when it releases "Renegades" on Dec. 5. De la Rocha announced last month that he was leaving the band he formed a decade ago to work on solo projects. The album is an eclectic collection of cover tunes by the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Beastie Boys, Ice Cube, Pavement and ... Johnny Cash.
Also arriving on store shelves is Neil Young's "Road Rock Volume 1," a compilation of live recordings with Pretenders frontwoman Chrissie Hynde. "60 Minutes of Funk" by Funkmaster Flex also makes the compilation gang featuring DMX, Nelly, Eminem and others.
While '80s rockers Bon Jovi are back on the road this year, their keyboardist David Bryan is releasing his debut solo project. "Lunar Eclipse" is a collection of original jazz tunes including his self-penned Bon Jovi classic "In These Arms."
Grunge heads can also revel with the release of Alice in Chains' "Live," featuring music from the '90s band that found success in the wake of Nirvana and Pearl Jam's explosion onto the music scene. Other releases include The Buddyrevelles' "American Matador," Flossie and the Unicorns' "The Animals' Clubhouse," K-Ci & Jojo's "X" and Marshall Dyllon's "Enjoy the Ride."
Dec. 12 Releases
You don't have to be a jazz fan to get into Etta James' newest project. On "Matriarch of the Blues," the versatile James covers everyone from the Rolling Stones ("Miss You") and Creedence Clearwater Revival ("Born on the Bayou") to the more conventional sounds of O.V. Wright ("Don't Let My Baby Ride") and Al Green ("Rhymes").
Old Schoolers can reminisce with Run-D.M.C.'s "Crown Royal," a two-CD set of old (remember "My Addidas" or the rock 'n' rap collision "Walk This Way"?) and new material. Also on the rap front, Xzibit will release his third album, "Restless," considered to be rap's most-anticipated record of the year. The project was produced by the father of gangsta rap, Dr. Dre, and features guest performances by Eminem, Snoop Dogg and Nate Dogg.
Also expect projects from Tool, a yet to be titled box set of live and unreleased tracks; Field Mob ("613: Ashy to Classy"); SPM ("Time is Money"); and Rewake ("Puzzle").
Dec. 19 Releases
Rapper Snoop Dogg leads the pack of releases for the week of the 19th with his long-awaited "The Last Meal." The project was produced by Dr. Dre and features guest performances by Nate Dogg, Master P, George Clinton and others. The album is being released just after the controversial release of "Dead Man Walking," a compilation of Snoop Dogg's earlier recordings by his former label, Death Row Records.
Rapper Lil' Wayne will also release his next project titled "Lights Out" on the Universal label. New waver from the '80s Boy George is also releasing DJ mixes of dance tracks from his former band, Culture Club. Other releases of note include DJ Clue's "The Professional, Part II," Crazytown's "The Gift of Game" and the soundtracks for "Finding Forrester" (Dec. 26) and "Song Catcher" (Dec. 26.)
Limp Bizkit wasn't so limp in record stores this week. The rock band's new disc "Chocolate Starfish and the Hot Dog Flavored Water" became only the third release by a band to debut on The Billboard Hot 200 albums chart as a million-seller, moving 1.06 million units, SoundScan reports. That's behind 'N Sync's 2.4 million units for "No Strings Attached" and the Backstreet Boys' 1.1 million for "Millennium," but it's the biggest seller ever for a rock band.
Limp, currently on the Anger Management Tour with Papa Roach, Eminem and Xzibit, postponed a show Tuesday because frontman Fred Durst had lost his voice due to swollen vocal cords.
Last week's chart king, Ja Rule's "Rule 3:36," fell to No. 2. Rounding out the Top Five: Nelly's "Country Grammar" at No. 3; "Back for the First Time" by Ludacris, a debut at No. 4; and Creed's "Human Clay."
Over on The Hot 100 singles chart, Christina Aguilera spent a fourth consecutive week at No. 1 with "Come on Over Baby (All I Want Is You)."
BLAME EMINEM! Politicians in the Canadian province of Ontario want rapper Eminem to please stay home, USA Today reports today. Ontario Attorney General Jim Flaherty said Wednesday that government attorneys are looking for ways to stop the controversial rapper, real name Marshall Mathers, from performing at the SkyDome in Toronto this evening.
Some officials believe that Em promotes violence against women, but Flaherty said that it's unlikely that the government can stop the rapper from taking the stage because Canada's hate crime legislation doesn't include violence against women.
The rapper's spokesman, Dennis Dennehy, said the controversy won't stop the rapper. "Eminem's plan is to entertain his fans, and people who don't like it don't have to go," Dennehy said.
Looks like Limp Bizkit frontman Fred Durst could've used some voice management classes for the Anger Management tour. Durst injured his vocal chords just three shows into the tour, which includes Papa Roach, Eminem and Xzibit on the bill. Doctors say his vocal chords are swollen.
Durst says he started going hoarse on Tuesday during the show. He's hoping to be in shape by Thursday.
WHAT A BASTARD: ODB is MIA ... again! The often-cuffed member of the Wu-Tang Clan known as Ol' Dirty Bastard decided that he no longer wanted to stay at a Pasadena drug treatment facility and simply bailed, SonicNet reports. He was ordered there by the court after violating his probation but bolted on foot while he was being taken to the L.A. Criminal Courthouse for an update report with a judge.
A warrant has been issued for his arrest. Officials say the 31-year-old rapper, whose real name is Russell Tyrone Jones, could face jail time as a result of his latest stunt.
A CALL FOR COLLINS: Whoops! Her bad. Judy Collins thought she was getting a singing gig to help ease the tensions in the Middle East when she got a call from a U.S. ambassador to the United Nations. Oh, he wanted her to sing all right, but the gig was for honoring Harry Belafonte at a ceremony. Doh! She accepted anyway and sang "Scarlet Ribbons" at the tribute last week.
"STRONGER" VIDEO NOT READY: Oops! She's gonna be a little late. Teen pop queen Britney Spears' latest video for her single "Stronger" wasn't ready for it's world premiere on Monday on MTV, sending the music cable channel scrambling to fill the slot. Representatives for Spears say the much-hyped video is stuck in post-production and won't be ready for another week.