Title: Yogi Bear
Director: Eric Brevig
Starring: Dan Aykroyd (voice), Justin Timberlake (voice), Tom Cavanagh, Anna Faris, T.J. Miller, Nathan Corddry, Andrew Daly
By: Joe Belcastro
Just as no idle picnic basket is safe in Jellystone Park, there isn’t a cartoon series protected from a Hollywood 3D update. Yogi Bear is the latest property to be scooped up and the older crowd is hoping that their fond memories of the popular television series, isn’t put through the wood shredder.
Aimed at the younger audiences, the 84 minute flick adjusts the human characters – which turns into cheesy performances from an adult perspective – to keep their interest levels peaked when the star attraction is off the screen. By using this technique, it surprisingly acts as the smartest thing the flick could have done.
Jellystone Park is as gorgeous as ever. It is also a financial disaster. Ranger Smith (Tom Cavanagh) usually spends most of his days dealing with the unorthodox antics of Yogi Bear (voiced by Dan Aykroyd) and his loyal sidekick Boo Boo (voiced by Justin Timberlake). The talking bears are constantly at work trying to find innovative ways to steal picnic baskets from the park patrons. Other than that, things are dandy. However, a power-hungry Mayor (Andrew Daly) needs to balance the city’s budget. Mayor Brown plans to run for Governor and in order to persuade the voters, he decides to re-zone the park and sell it off to builders to gain more cash for the city.
Ranger Smith isn’t about to let that happen. Naturally, Yogi wants to help but his elaborate plans have been known to backfire. Meanwhile, Mayor Brown and his brown-nosing Chief of Staff (Nathan Corddry) are keeping a watchful eye on the park, just in case Ranger Smith tries to come up with a miracle to save the hundred year-old landmark. To do this, the cocky political suits bribe Ranger Smith’s right hand man Jones (T.J. Miller). Besides Yogi and Boo Boo, the only other person interested in helping is wildlife geek and documentary filmmaker Rachel (Ann Faris). She originally came to Jellystone to document Yogi, but is now ready to stand by Ranger Smith in his noble cause to stop the destruction of Jellystone.
So the human characters are just there to move this story along while Yogi and Boo Boo are called upon to perform frequent stunts throughout the flick. What is interesting to observe is how director Eric Brevig uses the CGI animated stars. Instead of fleshing them out and digging deep into their psyche, he enables them to be just who they are on the surface. And that is why just about all their scenes are entertaining. Aykroyd voices the charismatic bear to near perfection. Every word that comes out of Yogi’s G-rated mouth is pure fun. One will have a smile on their face the entire time. Granted, older audiences will cringe when hearing the dialogue of Ranger Smith, but his direct-to-DVD-performance is passable. ‘Bearly’…(Get it – I’m a riot, I know).
This flick arguably had the worst trailer (the first one released) seen in years. A common reaction many folks had was almost the same as waking up and finding out they wet the bed…At the age of twenty. Maybe that’s why this review is entering the dazzling category. How and when the script injected Yogi and Boo Boo into every scene enabled the audience to get excited. One will leave the theater wanting more of the accurately portrayed animated characters. Although, the flick benefits from not shoving them down our throats, the humans are almost ‘unbearable’ (I’m on a roll). Although Cavanaugh seemed misplaced as Ranger Smith – or perhaps the script let him down – the duo of Mayor Brown and his “Yes man” picked up the slack. Their dialogue isn’t trendy but the arrogant clean-cut persona is appropriate for the subject matter on display. The sarcastic tone will click with the older crowd.
In the end, one really has to ask what they are truly expecting from a Yogi Bear movie? It doesn’t have the substantial story of a Toy Story 3 but it trumps the hell out of Alvin and the Chipmunks. As for the 3D effect, it’s there just to entertain the kids. Enough stuff – mainly food – will fly at their face and they’ll “eat it up.”
Overall, Yogi Bear can get any audience to smile. Just remember some of the human characters are poorly handled, which will induce a bewildered look at times. Dan Aykroyd gives the bear a healthy dose of life and the director places the animated duo in all the right spots. Yogi Bear isn’t rewriting this mix of CGI characters interacting with real actors ala Roger Rabbit. It is better than the average flick found in the genre though.
Rating: 3 out of 5