Watching Yogi Bear is like watching a kids cartoon at four in the morning, and that’s probably the best compliment you could give a full-length talking animal movie vehicle. The trouble is, said cartoons are usually no longer than twenty minutes or so, and this is the main problem with an otherwise passable and entertaining children’s movie. If you can turn your mind off and just let it wash over you for half an hour, there’s actually a fair amount of joy to be had.
We follow down on his luck Ranger Smith (Tom Cavanagh), who’s faced with the seemingly impossible task of raising $30,000 in a week, after the mayor threatens to close Jellystone Park. The park is also home to Yogi and Boo Boo, and the fact that Smith never thinks to capitalise on the attraction of two talking brown bears removes any respect you may otherwise have had for his intelligence. This removes some of the sympathy for his plight also, rendering the film fairly pointless from the start.
It’s almost cruel, yet unavoidable to compare Yogi Bear to other children’s fare of recent years. Director Eric Brevig deserves credit for not trying to modernise this update, and so succeeds where Alvin And The Chipmunk’s Beyonce dance routines sadly failed. However, in a world inhabited by Pixar, films aimed at children are expected to work on more than one level. The sad fact is, I can’t think of a single adult who would find this film appealing.
There are several chuckles to be had. Before the midway point, when the film somehow manages to suffocate under a narrative so simple it could have been written in crayon, the expected slapstick is used sparingly, in favour of sideways glances and some capable comic performances. Andrew Daley as Mayor Brown is a particular highlight, as he produced so many half smiles that I started to miss him whenever he left the screen. Unfortunately, the same can’t be said for the usually scene-stealing Anna Faris who, as the straight love interest here, fails to capture any of her previous sparkle.
The plot is simple, but the concept may prove a little disconcerting for anyone over five. We’re expected to leap into a world just like our own, except for one thing: there are bow tie-clad bears that steal our picnic baskets. This amount of disbelief is difficult to suspend for long, but it’s actually fun to remember an idea as fantastical as Yogi Bear from our childhoods. The CGI is great, but doesn’t exactly blend in to its surroundings. Maybe this wasn’t the idea, as the point is for them not to look like ‘your average bears’.
Voice work is uneven on the whole. I didn’t notice Justin Timberlake at all as Boo Boo, and this may just save his reputation. It’s also the work of a good voice actor, as I accepted the character rather than the personality behind it. It was a different story altogether with Yogi, voiced by Dan Aykroyd, with the volume turned high and the talent in the ground. It’s annoying, to say the least, and a Yogi Bear film without Yogi Bear might have been a lot more compelling.
Have we been spoiled by children’s movies catered towards the parents? I don’t know, but Yogi Bear isn’t a great case for the opposition. There’s more to enjoy than one might expect from CGI bears, and the film’s target audience should stay amused for the relatively short eighty-minute running time. However, the paper-thin plot and character motives will mean that any adults will quickly lose interest and become irritated by the many, many faults native to the concept. He may be ‘smarter than your average bear’, but this movie is not.
The Blu-ray disc is a triple play set, so you certainly get some bang for your buck. The Blu-ray format is also perfect for the woodland setting, giving the warm colours and textures of the park something a little extra.
As with most fully animated films, the higher quality format really translates well to the screen, but it can also show up some of the minor flaws otherwise invisible on the original format. Yogi and Boo Boo, for example, aren’t quite as detailed as some of the more innovative creatures seen in recent years, and it shows up against the real-life backgrounds and characters more than it possibly should.
The extras are very impressive for a film like this. An excellent and well-rounded selection of mini features have been littered around the ‘Spending a Day at Jellystone Park’ feature, making them fun to explore for everyone.
Acting as a complete ‘making of’, it would have been nice to have a ‘play all’ feature for the dedicated film enthusiast, but this is a minor quibble.
Also present on the disc is a ‘Yogi Bear Mashup’ for the nostalgic fan who wants to compare the two versions, ‘Are You Smarter Than the Average Bear?’ for the kiddies to test their logic, and, best of all, a new Looney Tunes cartoon featuring Road Runner.
The theatrical trailer is noticeably absent.
You can rent or buy Yogi Bear at Blockbuster.co.uk.