Dan Aykroyd, Justin Timberlake, Anna Faris, Tom Cavanagh, Christine Taylor
Brad Copeland, Jeffrey Ventimilia, Joshua Sternin
Jellystone Jewels: Litterbug
Jellystone Jewels: Yogi's Secret Hiding Spot
Yogi Bear Mash-Up
Unfortunately for kids this year, the dismally disappointing animation/live action mix Yogi Bear is Hollywood's lone offering to their kiddie consumers for the holiday season and boy is this one a stinker.
If you've grown up since the late 1950's, then there's a pretty darn good chance that you're aware of Yogi Bear, his trusty lil' companion Boo-Boo and, of course, Ranger Smith. The long popular television cartoon finally gets the big screen treatment here courtesy of Warner Brothers, however, I'll take a 30-minute worn and tattered cartoon over this nearly 80 minute dreck any day.
It's not that the original Yogi Bear, created by William Hanna and Joseph Barbera, was actually any good. It wasn't. It was a simple, old-fashioned kiddie distraction designed for parents who needed to sit their kids down in front of something mostly harmless while they went on about their own daily agendas. You might say that Yogi Bear started the whole "television takes the place of parenting trend."
While the original series was mostly the meringue of children's television, Yogi Bear is so devoid of anything substantial or entertaining that it barely even warrants a legit review.
Dan Aykroyd voices Yogi and popster Justin Timberlake, dissing the critical acclaim he received for Oscar fave The Social Network, attempts to give voice to Boo-Boo as they go about their merry ways in Jellystone Park stealing pic-a-nic baskets and wreaking generally harmless mayhem along the way. Unknown to our smarter than an average bear, Jellystone is losing money and a meanie Mayor (Andrew Daly) plots to sell the park for profit. Yogi and Boo-Boo join forces with Ranger Smith (Tom Cavanagh) and Rachel (Anna Faris, the film's highlight), a documentarian visiting the park to film the talking bears.
How is it, by the way, that a park has actual talking bears and nobody seems to care? How is this park losing money, anyway?
Sorry, I digress.
Shot effectively but meaninglessly in 3-D, Yogi Bear is a politicized kiddie cartoon with obvious left leanings and an obvious disdain for all things "right" as environmental concerns and government intervention are cheered and greedy, blood-sucking loggers and meanie politicians are jeered.
Director Eric Brevig is a special effects veteran who has obviously put painstaking effort into Yogi's CGI creation, a creation that sort of resembles Garfield, but is admittedly rendered more convincingly with the exception of eyes that are menacing enough to end up on the Polar Express. Where Yogi Bear really falls short is in possessing a storyline that makes sense, dialogue that holds interest or in giving our bears anything to do beyond stealing baskets. A sterile love story between Ranger Smith and our documentarian is remarkably devoid of, well, love and only Anna Faris's Rachel manages to entertain courtesy of Faris's occasionally loopy and inventive vocals.
Virtually anyone who has ever watched a Yogi Bear cartoon can imitate the the bear, and while Aykroyd certainly isn't dead on he's certainly passable enough. Timberlake is inventive enough that one can at least tell he has had some fun with the project, unfortunately that's unlikely to be true for anyone in the audience.
At bearly 80 minutes including closing credits, the best thing that can be said about Yogi Bear is that it flies by quickly enough that parents with fond memories can wax nostalgic and most kids under the age of 5 will enjoy the occasionally flying objects that look pretty darn awesome in 3-D.
Ultimately, the film should have been called Boo-Boo. It would have at least been a much more accurate description of the final result.
© Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic