Yogi Bear review

Is Yogi Bear smarter than the average animated family movie, or is it merely unbearable? Here's Mark's review...

Like a lot of people who’ve visited this site in the last couple of months, I saw that excellent YouTube video that posits to be an alternate ending to Yogi Bear, in which Boo Boo shoots Yogi dead, a la the ending of The Assassination Of Jesse James By The Coward Robert Ford.

Unlike most people, I decided to try and put the time I actually spent watching Yogi Bear to good use, and conducted an experiment. Maybe if I expected it to end with a dead Yogi, and willed it with all my might, then through the magic of 3D, that’s what I’d actually see at the end. I called this experiment “Schrödinger’s Bear”.

It didn’t work. More’s the pity, because there’s really very little else I could say that would surprise people about this new film version of the classic Hanna-Barbera animation.

I say “classic”, but does anyone else find themselves knowing very little about Yogi Bear except what they’ve absorbed through popular culture, through The Simpsons and such like? It doesn’t seem like people talk about it on the same level as, say, The Flintstones or Scooby Doo.

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So, with no particular affection for the character, it’s particularly annoying that we have a film that’s not especially about him either, instead borrowing the conservation thread from last year’s Furry Vengeance.

An unscrupulous mayor has overspent and left his town with a crippling deficit, and so decides to sell the logging rights to Jellystone Park to make up the difference. The park, presided over by Ranger Smith, is entering its centennial year, and must make 30 grand in revenue in the space of a week to avoid being pillaged by developers.

Oh yeah, and somewhere in there, there are two talking bears called Yogi and Boo Boo. That’s talking bears, ladies and gents. The humans all seem to know about them and admit that they’re rare, but never once think to use them for anything other than diversions to the bad guys. They’re talking bears!

The talking itself, as you may have heard, is done by Dan Aykroyd and Justin Timberlake, as Yogi and Boo Boo respectively. Aykroyd’s Yogi impression is a bit like an impression my dad would do. Not to slag off my dad, because in all fairness, he’d do that impression to amuse his kids, not in a big voice acting job in a big budget 3D movie, a job that could have gone to a better voice actor.

Timberlake does slightly better than both my dad and Aykroyd, by giving a spot-on Boo Boo impression, but the main problem still remains. Why not give some work to Jim Cummings or another amazing vocal talent, instead of two big names who the target audience won’t care about anyway?

Maybe I just don’t want the people who actually made this thing to get any money from it. Of course, Cummings is better off for not being credited in this bland and uninspired retooling. The only people involved who acquit themselves are Anna Faris and Andrew Daly.

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Faris isn’t exactly on top of her game, having to play her role straight, despite being a gifted comedy actress when given the right material. But she’s a reassuring presence whom the filmmakers like to remind us about whenever there’s a particularly naff set piece.

Daly gives a decent comedic evil turn as the antagonistic Mayor Brown and also provides the solitary snigger to be had in this entire movie.

Additionally, it’s not doing what certain other live-action adaptations are doing with classic animated texts. The upcoming rendition of the Smurfs promises us that we’ll get “Smurf’d”, and the Alvin And The Chipmunks movies feature high-pitched rapping, and covers of Beyonce and the like.

There’s nothing particularly modern or hip about Yogi Bear, and there’s almost a scintilla of charm to be had in the fact that nobody over-compensated in bringing the story to the 21st century, trying to keep it to the basics of the cartoon. Yogi likes to steal pic-a-nic baskets from people and eat their contents.

It’s just unfortunate that nobody was trying hard to do anything else, either, and that any more contemporary touches involve the bears dancing to Sir Mix-A-Lot.

The result is a bland, formulaic and entirely forgettable film, masquerading under the banner of environmental concern by recycling plot bits and gags from other films.

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When the names of the three credited writers appeared at the end, I half expected each of them to be suffixed by “(age 5)”, the way a toddler would write their name on a Crayola masterpiece in nursery school.

Some are making the pun that Yogi Bear is what bears do in the woods. In 3D, with lots of special effects, and a couple of very minor plus points, it’s more sophisticated than that. I’d advance that Yogi Bear is what would happen if a bear somehow shat in a toilet. But let’s not forget, it’s still bear shit.

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2 out of 5