Yogi Bear (Blu-Ray)
April 8, 2011
Yogi Bear, or, Is A Bear Shit In The Woods?
It’s fair to say that the dearly departed William Hanna and Joseph Barbera had a knack for creating memorable cartoons characters. The list is as long as your arm – Top Cat, Hong Kong Phooey, Wacky Races, Scooby Doo, hairy testicle-with-a-face Captain Caveman and the wily Yogi Bear. So, as Hollywood is eating itself alive, it comes as no surprise that one or two of them may be in line for a re-boot.
So, following on from the CGI / live action hi-jinks of the likes of Garfield, Yogi Bear is given a 3D spit and polish before being trotted out to a younger audience whose parents may have some fond memories of Hanna Barbera’s classic picker-nick basket-swiping ursoid.
Being a film aimed at the kiddies, the plot is somewhat simple. Ranger Smith (Scrubs’ Tom Cavanagh) is gearing up for Jellystone Park’s 100th birthday celebrations, and crosses paths with Rachel (Anna Faris) who wishes to make a documentary about Yogi and Boo Boo. Meanwhile, Mayor Brown (Andrew Daly) wants to close the park down and sell the land to balance his budget, and in doing so, recruits dunderheaded Ranger Jones (T. J. Miller), with the promise of making him Head Ranger if he assists him. It’s up to the good guys to rescue the park, and set against the Machiavellian backdrop, Yogi busies himself in his quest for food, but inevitably gets in everyone’s bidness.
Dan Akroyd takes on the vocal duties for Yogi, with Justin Timberlake handling sidekick and voice of reason Boo Boo. This initially seems like a piece of stunt casting, but snakehips Timberlake is surprisingly good; in fact, I completely forgot it was him during the course of the film. It’s a slightly different story with Akroyd, however – he does an admirable job, but he sounds like he’s trying too too hard. He was reportedly sent tapes made by understudies of Daws Butler, the original voice behind Yogi, to explain how to mimic his distinctive delivery, put the portly Ghostbuster refused to listen to them and instead delivered his own take. You mess with a classic at your own peril, and this backfires on him – after two minutes, it’s like nails scraping down a blackboard.
The humans in the film do a decent job, despite laying things on a little thick. Cavanagh strikes a fair balance between manly ranger and love-struck mush-head, Faris hits the right note as the weird, unfeasibly attractive scientist, Miller does a good knucklehead and Daly has a ball as the sleazy Mayor.
So, is it any good? I’m afraid that the answer is no. So, I hear you cry, it’s a load of old toot then? Not quite. It’s far worse than that. Yogi Bear is a textbook example of crushing mediocrity. Everything about the script, from the wooden dialogue and the telegraphed slapstick to the obvious foreshadowing and lazy storytelling (Yogi in a reality TV show? Pfft) indicates that no one has even tried to make a good movie here. It’s a pity, because Yogi is a classic character, the actors are up for it, there’s a Wilhelm Scream and the CGI is uniformly excellent – just check out Yogi’s wet fur when he’s waterskiing.
Yogi Bear is a film that will bore adults and kiddywinks alike. Pixar has shown other film studios the success that can be reaped by investing in a great script. However, instead of putting one in the back of the net in the name of retro charm, Yogi Bear toe-bungs against the crossbar Ronny Rosenthal style.