Once again, Hollywood attempts to stir up some nostalgia where there’s absolutely none to be found. In a way, Yogi Bear does justice to what was, at best, an unremarkable cartoon series featuring the self-proclaimed smarter than average bear from the Hanna-Barbera stable of cartoon mediocrity.
So it is with much regret that I report that Yogi Bear isn’t an insufferable experience but only because it’s buoyed by massively lowered expectations. This is neither a good nor memorable movie, but as a live-action film with a couple of CGI-animated bears, it’s certainly much less obnoxious than the likes of the bodily function-obsessed Alvin and the Chipmunks and the headache-inducing G-Force. Fortunately for Yogi Bear’s audience, the filmmakers have the decency to waste no time with lengthy introductions and, instead, favor a steady pace of broad, slapstick humor rolling with plenty of tolerable goofiness coming from the characters. However, one inevitable downside to any movie centered within a national park is the tendency to misinterpret the film’s message as a political one. That’s really not the intention here. Yogi Bear assumes to deliver no message; it has merely constructed the simplest of all possible stories around the antics of a bear.
Moving within their characters’ previous television confines, Yogi Bear (Dan Aykroyd) and trusty sidekick Boo Boo (Justin Timberlake) spend their days dreaming up ways to steal picnic baskets from families at Jellystone Park. Most of these efforts are successful unless intercepted by Head Ranger Smith (Tom Cavanagh) or his frustrated underling, Ranger Jones (T.J. Miller). Naturally, neither ranger seems to find the concept of talking bears to be a strange one, nor does nature documentarian Rachel (Anna Faris), who enters the scene and immediately captures the heart of Smith (who, until now, may have never met a human female in his entire life). Since the entire movie can’t merely feature bear antics and romantic spam dinners, however, the filmmakers toss in the requisite problem that must be solved. Despite Jellystone’s scenic beauty, the park’s not exactly a moneymaker and regularly operates at a loss, so the city’s corrupt Mayor Brown (Andrew Daly) and his brown-nosing Chief of Staff (Nate Corddry) threaten to rezone Jellystone for logging purposes unless Smith can come up with his budget in just one week. A seemingly failproof plan is developed, and Yogi fucks it all up, as expected, so it’s up to Rachel and Smith to find a suitably geeky second plan of action.
Yogi Bear was natively shot in 3D, which means it looks better than its post-production conversion counterparts, and this movie also makes the most clever-albeit-gimmicky use of 3D (primarily involving Boo Boo’s pet turtle) that I’ve seen since Journey to the Center of the Earth, which makes sense considering that both films are directed by Eric Brevig. And at least this movie looks good, since we’re dealing with a family film that boasts more screenwriters (three) than original ideas. There’s the obligatory dance scene, wherein Yogi and Boo Boo shake what their mommas gave them to the tune of “Baby Got Back,” but perhaps the only moment that parents should cover their child’s ears is when Yogi advises Ranger Smith to urinate upon Rachel as a courting ritual. He does so with the best of intentions.
While we’re chasing our own tails here, let us take a moment to remove Anna Faris from her lofty perch and realize that, just like the case with all of the other crappy movies on her resumé, she’s here to serve a purpose. Anna Faris excels in lending a sense of tolerability to less than mediocre material. She’s not the goddess that certain people believe her to be, and she’ll continue to make really awful movies for the duration of her career. Yet instead of decrying her repeated waste of potential, let’s just accept that Faris has been put on this Earth to make lame movies a little bit better for those who watch them. If anything, Faris deserves praise here for convincingly allowing herself to be romanced by the likes of Cavenagh, who appears to be little more than a semi-sentient waxwork. Daly and Cordry are both sufficiently slimy as small-time politicians, and damn Justin Timberlake for making me enjoy his efforts as an actor, even if it’s only voice work. His voicing of Boo Boo is adorable and does a lot to distract from the unbearable (sorry, had to go there) wailing done by Aykroyd. For a fairly unoffensive kid’s movie, it’s rather pathetic that the main character’s voice had to ruin an otherwise not-entirely-painful viewing experience. If you’re on the fence regarding taking the little ones to see Yogi Bear, the bear himself makes a nice tie-breaking vote to wait for DVD.
Agent Bedhead lives in Tulsa, Oklahoma. She and her little black heart can be found at agentbedhead.com.