THE AISLE SEAT - by Mike McGranaghan
Yogi Bear probably should not be reviewed by an adult. The movie - on DVD and Blu-Ray March 22 - was made for (very) young children. They will enjoy it greatly, as my two year-old son did, but adults will find the viewing process arduous. And, really, it won't be because this is a bad film so much as because it's a lazy one. Millions of adults grew up watching Yogi Bear cartoons, but instead of playing to those memories, it does as little as possible to technically qualify as a "Yogi Bear movie."
Dan Akyroyd provides the voice of the computer-animated Yogi, while Justin Timberlake is his sidekick Boo Boo. They spend their days stealing picnic baskets at Jellystone Park, much to the dismay of Ranger Smith (Tom Cavanaugh). Trouble hits when the park fails to meet its operating budget, leading the town's mayor (Andrew Daly) to hatch a plot to sell the land to developers. It's up to Yogi, Boo Boo, and Ranger Smith to somehow save Jellystone, with the aid of a documentary filmmaker (Anna Faris) who happens to be filming the bears.
So let me see if I have this correct: Jellystone has not one but two talking bears and it still can't get enough admissions?
Yogi Bear is the latest in an oddly long line of movies to send kids the message that big business is bad. (Furry Vengeance and Hoot are two others that come immediately to mind). I'm all in favor of teaching children the value of ecology and protecting our wildlife, but this particular plotline has become the go-to story for non-ambitious screenwriters. Aside from being "positive," it also sets up a lot of opportunities for slapstick, as the heroic forest animals provide a repeated pounding to the big, bad businessmen.
Yeah, there's a lot of that kind of thing on display here. Too much for my taste, in fact. As I said, young kids will find it funny. I found it a little depressing. Watching people fall in the water or seeing bears slamming into trees is just too easy. Writing that kind of "comedy" doesn't take any actual thought, nor does it challenge the young minds who will watch it. Given that Yogi is famous for stealing picnic baskets, wouldn't it have made more sense to concoct a screenplay that dealt with the issue of why stealing is wrong? I can think of all kinds of funny scenarios to come out of such a plot, and none of them involve anyone getting conked on the head.
Only the voice work from Aykroyd and Timberlake amuses in Yogi Bear, and the film is lucky to have them. Anna Faris is usually very funny, but she's trapped in a role that inexplicably doesn't take advantage of her gifts. Tom Cavanaugh, meanwhile, seems to have been cast because every actor of any sort of status wouldn't come within a thousand feet of this script. Andrew Daly - so hilarious on HBO's "Eastbound and Down" - hits all the predictable notes for a villain in this sort of picture.
Even with its super-short running time (72 minutes, not counting end credits), Yogi Bear felt long to me. That's probably the right length for the target age group, though.
( 1/2 out of four)
Yogi Bear will be released on March 22 on DVD, in a Blu-Ray/DVD combo pack (in either 3D or 2D variations), and On Demand via digital cable, satellite TV, and select game consoles.
While I wasn't overly fond of the feature itself, some of the bonus material is interesting. The highlight is "Spending a Day at Jellystone Park," an interactive tour. Each stop allows you to access mini-segments detailing various Yogi-related production material. Segments on filming in New Zealand, the shooting of a complicated whitewater rafting scene, the use of special effects in creating the bears, and the function of stand-ins for Yogi and Boo Boo are all pretty entertaining. There is some fluff, though, including a fake political ad, a phony tourism spot, and an embarrassing music video for a song Ranger Smith sings to the Anna Faris character.
Also included is "Yogi Bear Mash-Up," which uses classic cartoon clips to show how they inspired the movie, and "Are You Smarter Than The Average Bear," an easy remote control matching game. Finally, there is "Rabid Rider," a CGI-animated Road Runner/Wile E. Coyote short. I've seen a few of these newly-produced Looney Tunes, and they lack the charm of the original hand-drawn ones.
A digital copy of the movie is also included. Picture and sound quality are excellent.
Yogi Bear is rated PG for some mild rude humor. The running time is 1 hour and 19 minutes.