Jellystone Park has been losing business, so greedy Mayor Brown decides to shut it down and sell the land. That means families will no longer be able to experience the natural beauty of the outdoors -- and, even worse, Yogi and Boo Boo will be tossed out of the only home they've ever known. Faced with his biggest challenge ever, Yogi must prove that he really is smarter than the average bear as he and Boo Boo join forces with their old nemesis Ranger Smith to find a way to save Jellystone Park from closing forever. (from MovieWeb.com)
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)
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.
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)
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 exclusively on content. However, if the content really affects the reviewer's opinion and experience of the film, it will definitely affect the reviewer's overall rating.
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