The bear with the top hat, green tie and penchant for stealing picnic baskets has waited over 50 years for his shot at raising some big screen laughs. But Yogi Bear the movie, far from being a laugh-a-minute comic caper, is a bruin-ous tragedy. Well, tragedy is too strong a word — it suggests roiling emotions and high drama; what Yogi Bear suffers from is plain yawn-inducing mediocrity.
The Hanna-Barbera cartoons, on which the new film Yogi Bear is based, weren't zingy or clever, and were definitely aimed at a young kiddie audience; still, there was a trouble-free, heart-warming quality to them. It's taken three writers, Jeffrey Ventimilia, Joshua Sternin and Brad Copeland, to strip away all that was cute and funny and sweet about their original source material, to come up with something so bland that processed cheese would taste red-hot in comparison.
Director Eric Brevig, known for his special effects work, decides to combine digital animation with live action and throw in some 3D, so film-going families can shell out even more for this colourless fare. On the animated front we have the ursine duo, Yogi (voiced by Dan Aykroyd ) and his sidekick Boo Boo (voiced by Justin Timberlake) — and admittedly, they are blended in absolutely seamlessly into the world of the real actors such as Ranger Smith (Tom Cavanagh).
It's another matter that the real actors are so cardboard-cutout and cartoonish, that it's honestly, hard to spot the difference. Originally at the heart of the action was the long-standing battle between the rangers and Yogi about creating a ruckus in the Park and stealing picnic — pronounced picky-nick — baskets in Jellystone Park.
This is still the background set-up in the movie where Ranger Smith, nerdy but good-hearted, is forever dealing with the confusions caused by Yogi. Ranger Smith is also allowed a mild flirtation with the comely but socially inept Rachel (Anna Faris), a documentary filmmaker who has come to film Yogi's antics. He has a less enjoyable battle with Deputy Ranger Jones (T.J. Miller) whose ambition matches his foolishness.
But this idyll of insipidity is disrupted by corrupt Mayor Brown (Andrew Daly) and his yes-man deputy (Nate Corddry); the mayor decides he must sell Jellystone Park for logging rights so as to raise campaign money for the coming elections.
Environmental message-filled family comedy? A clunky description that matches the dispirited efforts of the movie to move things along. Even Aykroyd who usually gets the humour down pat, fails to animate Yogi; Timberlake is a lot better as Yogi's more cautious lieutenant. Largely, over the course of the movie, Yogi, who believes he is “smarter than the average bear”, comes up with ill-judged exploits that are annoying rather than funny.
Jellystone Park itself comes up as the movie's only star; filmed in New Zealand, the scenery is stunning. But the questions remain: can Yogi and his friends save this oasis of beauty from the rapacious politicians? Will Ranger Smith and Rachel manage to find true love? Will the sun rise tomorrow? There's a good chance you can guess the answers.
Genre: Kids / Animation
Director: Eric Brevig
Cast: Anna Faris, Tom Cavanagh; Voices of Justin Timberlake, Dan Aykroyd
Storyline: Yogi and Boo Boo must try and prevent Jellystone Park from being sold by corrupt Mayor Brown.
Bottomline: Unfunny ursine “un”-tertainment
Keywords: Yogi Bear