For years now, Hollywood has been attempting to adapt beloved cartoon shows for the big screen, usually with disappointing results. Whether it's been casting live action actors into films like Dudley Do-Right, Inspector Gadget, or George of the Jungle or taking the central, hand-drawn animated characters and making them animated with CGI and put in a live action setting - like Garfield, Scooby Doo or Marmaduke - the format usually doesn't work very well. The latest character to get the latter treatment is the classic Hanna Barbera cartoon, Yogi Bear.
Taking a page out of the same handbook used to create Garfield or the upcoming Smurfs, Yogi Bear mixes live action with CGI to bring the picnic basket-stealing bear to the silver screen. The approach looks better than some of the aforementioned attempts, with Yogi and Boo Boo's updated appearances being more faithful than most others who make the transition to movies. To voice the lovable park bears, the filmmakers enlisted the talents of comedian Dan Aykroyd as the title character, and surprisingly, singer-turned-actor Justin Timberlake as Boo Boo. The actors do pretty solid voice impersonations of the originals, helping these 2010 versions feel not too far removed from their origins.
Former visual effects supervisor Eric Brevig hasn't been in the director's chair for very long, having tackled his first directorial job in 2008 with the Journey to the Center of the Earth 3D adaptation. That film was entertaining but lacked considerably. Sadly, Yogi Bear suffers from similar problems. The live action characters over-act a lot, which is often found in childrens films, but it tends to alienate the older audience accompanying said children. The script, written by three guys who don't have very good credits to their names (Wild Hogs, That 70's Show and... Surviving Christmas?!), offers a couple laughs, but not many. The writing isn't very smart or clever (dare I say it's "average?", so all the film really has going for it are expertly rendered animated talking bears. Not surprisingly with a film of this kind, it's at its best when the bears are on screen and doing their thing - like the original cartoon - and when there are just thinly developed people characters on the screen, the film tends to drag a bit. The other minor problem is that, when watching Yogi Bear in 2D, it's obvious that several visual gags were done just for its 3D presentation. At the time of viewing the movie, I hadn't realized Brevig had directed Journey to the Center of the Earth, and I found myself thinking about how several sight gags in that film, too, had been done specifically for 3D. To be honest, it doesn't detract from the film when viewing it in 2D, but it is a bit obvious when it happens.
Tom Cavanagh, who is probably known best for the TV show Ed, does alright as Ranger Smith, but although it's obvious he and the other actors are having fun on the set, Cavanagh just doesn't seem to have the charm or passion to carry such a big role (In comparison to the look of the original Ranger Smith, I could almost see a slightly younger Tom Hanks in that role). It doesn't help that Anna Faris is the film's leading lady, either. I've always felt that Faris is a bit of a live action cartoon herself and to see her in a role like this just makes her feel all the more so. Someone like Jayma Mays (Paul Blart: Mall Cop) or even a more serious actress who can pull off the more innocent, charming roles that movies like this require, would probably have fit better here. T.J. Miller, who was recently seen as the foul-mouthed slacker in Unstoppable and who was the man behind the camera in Cloverfield, plays a self-centered and ambitious park ranger assistant to Smith. He fits in with the given cast, but isn't particularly memorable in the role. Lastly, character actor Andrew Daly, who was recently in Life As We Know It and was in an episode of The Office several seasons ago, is good as the two-faced mayor who fits the bill as the film's villian, aiming to destroy Jellystone to help make it to being governor of the state. He gets a few good moments on screen, but also falls short due to the over-acting.
The content is mild for this family film. Where some films in the genre tend to try to let some really rude or even raunchy gags slip by for the older audiences bringing the kids, Yogi Bear keeps it pretty clean. There are a couple subtle gags that are likely to cause you to shake your head, though. At one point, Yogi tries to tell Ranger Smith to urinate on Rachel to get her to like him (like a real bear might?), while in another scene, Yogi tries to press his lips to Smith's forehead to check his temperature and later remarks that it's better than where he has to get his temperature taken. Later, Yogi and Boo Boo dance and shake their butts to the song "I Like Big Butts" briefly before Smith turns off the stereo playing the song. It's silly and stupid and I'm not really sure why they included it. Overall, though, it's a pretty tame film that you shouldn't have to worry too much about for content.
To its credit, Yogi Bear does offer some good themes about loyalty, honesty, and even forgiveness. Also, I thought Aykroyd and Timberlake did a pretty fine job voicing the bears and their scenes were the most enjoyable in the film. I've seen much worse films like this, so Yogi Bear is ultimately an hour and twenty minutes of pretty harmless entertainment, but when it comes to family films that are smart and entertaining for the whole family, you're better off looking into any given Pixar animated movie or most of the DreamWorks Animation films. Still, this one probably isn't nearly as intense or scary as those films can be. Hopefully Hollywood will one day realize that this formula just doesn't work that well, but until that fateful day, we have a slightly better cartoon-turned-live-action-movie in Yogi Bear... but not by much.
- John DiBiase, (reviewed: 3/21/11)
Blu-Ray Special Features Review
On Blu-Ray, Yogi Bear looks pretty good. It's a very colorful movie and the nature scenes look nice and crisp in high definition. Also, the clarity really brings out the detail in Yogi and Boo Boo's animation. The Blu-Ray release comes in two different forms -- a 3D combo pack and a 2D combo pack that consists of a Blu-Ray disc and a DVD/Digital Copy disc. This will be a review of the 2D release.
Looney Tunes "Rabid Rider" (3:07) - Warner Bros. had announced not too long ago that they hoped to bring Looney Tunes cartoons back to theaters. "Rabid Rider" is a CG-animated (not hand-drawn) cartoon of Wile E. Coyote trying to catch the Road Runner. The gag of this one? Wile E. Coyote basically is trying to use a modified Segway to chase the Road Runner. It's actually funnier than that might sound and it's a nice little bonus on this release.
Yogi Bear Mash-Up (3:37) - I probably haven't seen the original Yogi Bear cartoon since I was pretty little, so this featurette was a fun one to experience. It consists of shots from the movie and the cartoon, comparing the original characters to their 2010 counterparts and comparing things that happened in the movie to things that actually happened in the show. It's a great, quick little Yogi Bear History 101.
Are You Smarter Than The Average Bear? - This is a "memory" style game where you have plates of food to flip over and match with other plates.
Spend A Day At Jellystone Park - This is the meat and potatoes of the bonus features. We're given a map of Jellystone and it's split up into several sections: Ranger Station, Lookout Mountain, Jellystone Lake, Jelly Jarring Rapids and Redwood Valley.
Ranger Station: In the first section, we're given two featurettes - "Ranger Jones' Real Life Audition" (3:04) and "Stand In Shenanigans" (2:31). The first shows T.J. Miller talking about his audition for the film in which he tracked down a real life bear to tape his audition with. The second one shows the actors who were stand-ins for the animated Yogi and Boo Boo and shows footage of them interacting with the cast on set. Both are fun watches for anyone who enjoyed the film.
Lookout Mountain: The second section features three segments. "Voicing Yogi & Boo Boo" (4:14) is dedicated to Dan Aykroyd and Justin Timberlake's voice acting of the bears. It shows the actors in the studio while recording their lines and features them and the director talking about their parts. It's a highlight of the extras. "Baskit Nabber 2000" (2:00) shows how they animated Yogi's flying machine once it took flight, in comparison to the real physical prop seen on the ground. "Jellystone Jewel: Litterbug" (1:29) features Miller's Ranger Jones encouraging kids to not litter and to pick up trash.
Jellystone Lake: Three segments make up "Jellystone Lake," starting with "Vote For Mayor Brown" (1:13), an amusing fake Mayor Brown promo. "'Sickness Was Love' A Love Song For Rachel" (2:22) is a fake music video for a "love song" from Ranger Smith to Rachel, featuring goofy acting and additional footage from Faris and Cavanagh. It's pretty dang silly, but the kids should love it. "Jellystone Park Tourism" (1:19) is a mock commercial for the park from Ranger Smith. Basically everything in this section are fake promo videos and easily dismissable.
Jelly Jarring Rapids: "Jellystone Park Jewel: Yogi's Secret Hiding Spot" (1:46) is another Ranger Jones video where he "finds" items taken by Yogi hidden behind a tree. "Animated Bears" (2:33) focuses on the process of filming scenes without the actual bears while the actors have to pretend they are there. We then hear from the special effects guys on how they then go about filling the empty places where those bears are supposed to be with the actual CG-animated bears. We see some great footage of the actors acting without the animated bears in the scene, so it's pretty neat to see how this was done. It's suprisingly thorough for a two-and-a-half-minute long featurette. "The Rapids" (3:14) shows how they filmed the actors and bears going through the Jelly Jarring Rapids -- from them actually going down real rapids to filming their close-ups in a studio. It's a great behind-the-scenes look.
Redwood Valley: "Everyone Wants To Be Yogi" (2:27) is dedicated to the original cartoon and how much everyone involved in the film loved the original, and a few of the supporting cast take a stab at their own Yogi impressions. "Building Jellystone" (3:22) reveals that parts of New Zealand were used as the setting for Jellystone Park... and how the Ranger Station cabin was built from scratch!
"Frog-Mouthed Turtle" (2:48) is dedicated to Boo-Boo's pet turtle and how he was designed and integrated into the film's scenes. Some great before and after shots and candid footage is shown here.
Overall, the special features do lend a little extra appreciation to the film, but I still can't help feeling that it could have been better. Still, if you're going to see the film at all, be sure to grab it on Blu-Ray Disc.
- John DiBiase, (reviewed: 3/20/11)
Parental Guide: Brief Summary of Content
Sex/Nudity: Yogi tells Smith that he couldn't help but notice that Smith was interested in Rachel, so he recommends that Smith urinate on her to get her to like him (obviously he doesn't); Yogi tries to put his lips on Smith's forehead to take his temperature but Smith pushes him away. Yogi then comments that it's still a better means of taking someone's temperature than what he has to endure; Yogi and Boo Boo dance around and shake their butts to the song "I Like Big Butts;" Rachel makes a comment about scratching an animal's backside to be its friend, but that if you do that to people, you'll be considered "that weird girl on the bus."
Just cartoon slapstick violence - like Yogi burning his foot on a soldering iron, Yogi being thrown through the air and hitting a tree, etc; Ranger Jones drives a cart recklessly and falls out of it but is fine; A skater tries to miss Yogi and ends up going through a construction site, causing damage; Yogi accidentally gets his cape caught on fire while waterskiing and the fire spreads to a fireworks stand that causing the fireworks to shoot all over the park, destroying pavilions and causing a stampede of people trying to leave the park; Rachel tackles the mayor's assistant when he tries to escape
** Disclaimer: All reviews are based solely on the opinions of the reviewer. Most reviews are rated on how the reviewer enjoyed the film overall, not on content. However, if the content
really affects the reviewer's opinion of the film, it will definitely affect the reviewer's rating.