REVIEW: Yogi Bear [2010]

“The microphone is on”

I’m pretty sure I watched the old “Yogi Bear Show” cartoon from Hanna Barbera growing up, but I can’t recollect anything besides the titular character’s goofy voice and the park ranger constantly screaming his name in defeated angst. What I want to remember, however, is that it was good. Granted, I was young and not much was probably needed to keep me entertained and interested, but if the new live action/animated hybrid from visual effects superstar Eric Brevig gives any indication through ‘precise mirroring’ of its progenitor, well it must not have been as good as my nostalgic feelings wish. Not only does Yogi Bear have major motion blur in its 3D, distorting on angles and confusing when foreground and background move at different speeds, it is extremely over-the-top, ploddingly boring, and devoid of any real action. Hollywood needs to figure out a way for tripe such as this to go straight into the homes so children can enjoy—and if the gleefully annoying shrieks at my screening indicate anything, it’s that young ones can be fed everything—and parents will never have to experience it with a $100-plus family time matinee pricetag.

Josh Robert Thompson opens the film with his faux-Morgan Freeman narration, ushering in the hammily-voiced Yogi, courtesy of Dan Aykroyd, and the precociously-disregarded screech of Boo Boo, surprisingly manufactured by Justin Timberlake. The talking, upright bears are entrenched in their favorite pastime—the snatching of pic-a-nic baskets. These nicely rendered beasts can’t be bothered with foraging for food; they wear ties for heaven’s sake and deserve a little more class than tree worms. So a few minutes of exposition shows their attempts, throws some things at the audience, and attempts some humor before whisking us off to the ranger station with Tom Cavanagh’s overly-professional and nature-educated Ranger Smith and T.J. Miller’s ambitious boob, Ranger Jones. The latter can effectively play dumb all day without showing the strings, but Cavanagh is way too wooden here to pull off the compassionate soul begrudgingly putting up with Yogi’s antics nor the serious, dutiful leader of a sparsely-visited Jellystone Park. You want to empathize with the role; his awkward delivery just won’t allow it. Yes, many of his lines are opposite non-existent entities, but that shouldn’t be an excuse.

I’m not saying an 80-minute film of Yogi and Boo Boo wreaking havoc while the rangers run around helpless would have made a worse film, but to avoid such an outcome, the filmmakers needed some kind of big picture conflict. It comes in the form of a city’s budget deficit its power-hungry mayor is looking to solve so he can run for governor, (Andrew Daly in the only worthwhile way-too-campy performance onscreen), and his yes-man Chief of Staff Nathan Corddry, (who is totally related to his brother Rob). The quickest way to raise enough money to save his office is turning the park into a lucrative logging enterprise, something he keeps secret from Smith and Jones, causing the first to try and capitalize on a 100th anniversary celebration to erase his own deficit and save the land and the second to sabotage his boss and win his post as Head Ranger, even though the park will be gone. It’s an obvious and simple conceit meant to satisfy viewers who actually care about a plot—it doesn’t—and be as innocuous to the gimmicks and gags to grab laughs where possible. So, basically, if you’re over the age of seven, good luck.

The writers even look to add some romance for Cavanagh with Anna Faris’s documentary filmmaker Rachel, but besides her work conveniently leading towards the movie’s solution—which happens so close to the end that it could have been a 20-minute short without losing anything—the role is useless as the relationship stays as chaste as possibly so as not to gross-out the intended demographic. She is just one more pawn moved around so Yogi and Boo Boo can run the show. And, truthfully, I guess that’s the point in the first place. The inventions they create are fun and disastrous; the close proximity of a jet-skiing bear, fire, fireworks, and a ton of people a few yards away is ripe for a chuckle; and Yogi’s buffoonish mannerisms and lack of common sense will convey a smirk or two. His selfishness will eventually get called into question and hopefully teach some flimsy moral to the audience while his unlucky missteps will luckily somehow save the day. If you thought otherwise you really need to question what you are doing at the movies in the first place.

So, in conclusion, while Yogi Bear is pretty tragic and way too expensive with its three dimensions for a clichéd water splash, a tongue extension, and a floating turtle only, it will most likely bank enough to warrant an even more unnecessary sequel. Brevig did the same with his feature-length debut, Journey to the Center of the Earth, too. The formula is there for the youth of America to lap up and want more. More popcorn, more pop, more candy, and more goofy smiles from beautifully animated icons of the past, refurbished for today’s generation. If my hope of the cartoon being of high quality is wrong, I’d still say save your money and rent the classics for your kids. You can Jiffy-Pop the corn, uncap a two-liter, and reminisce while your offspring become captivated by a bear so indelibly connected to the minds of its viewers that an old friend of mine once answered a Geography Bee question asking where Old Smokey was with the name “Jellystone”. No amount of bad press will keep families from seeing this, though, and my warnings will fall on deaf ears. Because of this, I just ask adults to come home and watch Edmund Earle’s depressingly awesome alternate ending. At least something good came out of this.

Yogi Bear 2/10 | ★

[1] (L-r) Boo Boo, as voiced by JUSTIN TIMBERLAKE, and Yogi Bear, as voiced by DAN AYKROYD, in Warner Bros. Pictures’ live-action/computer-animated adventure in 3D, “YOGI BEAR,” a Warner Bros. Pictures release. Photo courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures
[2] (L-r) TOM CAVANAGH as Ranger Smith and ANNA FARIS as Rachel in Warner Bros. Pictures’ live-action/computer-animated adventure in 3D, “YOGI BEAR,” a Warner Bros. Pictures release. Photo by Phil Bray
[3] T.J. Miller stars as Ranger Jones and Tom Cavanagh stars as Ranger Smith in Warner Bros. Pictures’ Yogi Bear (2010)

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