As if Jack Black's Gulliver's Travels isn't enough for the younger crowd this holiday season, Yogi Bear fares no better in providing entertainment solely for the kids, and if you're looking for something intelligent from this film, you're better off somewhere else. Like all Hanna-Barbera Productions' characters translated for the silver screen such as The Flintstones and Scooby Doo, what this provides is a live action version to much cherished childhood cartoon characters, and little else.
Yogi Bear and his sidekick, the smaller sized bear Boo Boo, are walking-on-hind-legs, talking bears at Jellystone Park, managed by park ranger Smith (Tom Cavanagh) and a none too bright ranger Jones (T.J. Miller) who aspires to be chief ranger one day. As usual most of the scenes with Yogi and Boo Boo center upon their exploits in trying to pinch and take off with the picnickers' baskets of food using schemes, plans and tools created by none other than that who is smarter than your average bear.
The story by Jeffrey Ventimilia, Joshua Sternin and Brad Copeland is an extremely simple one centered around the villainous politician Mayor Brown (Andrew Daly) and his spineless bootlicking sidekick (Nathan Corddry) who try to balance their state's budget deficit (of their own overspending) through the execution of their plan of selling off Jellystone to loggers, and doing so by co-opting Jones into their fold to foil fund-raising plans by Smith to keep the Park alive and self-sufficient. And besides Yogi Bear's obsession with picnicker's food, some time got set aside for a romantic subplot between Smith and Rachel (Anna Faris in a totally wasted role), a filmmaker working on a nature documentary.
Yes there is room here for some environmental message to creep in, with the introduction of endangered species toward the final act, and how we must act in order to save trees from illegal logging and the natural habitats of animals. The setups are quite clear from the onset that they're introduced, which leaves you wonder how long it'll take before the film screams to an end as it plods its way through some 83 minutes. Ultimately, it feels like an unwelcome extension of a typical cartoon episode.
Voiced by Dan Aykroyd, Yogi doesn't seem to sound like his usual self from the cartoons seen on television, but I suppose Aykroyd came close enough, just not quite. Justin Timberlake to my surprise however, seemed to have nailed Boo Boo's voice quite accurately. The graphics used to render these two bears turn out to be quite vivid, although some slip-shoddiness in effects can be clearly detected especially during the entire rapids scene with obvious sub-par superimposition works. One wonders if most of the budget went into the three dimensional aspects of the film, which have scenes specially crafted to exploit this, than to pay attention to simple things that usually get taken for granted, adding to a marred experience.
For a kids' film, surely there's the expected blatant flaws such as the bears being able to roam around without being detected for so long, which is quite impossible given their penchant for showboating and being near people just to pinch their food. But of course you must remember one thing, this is designed for the kids, and as adults we have already outgrown this no thanks to cynicism in the real world. I shudder at the thought that the Smurfs are ready to make their 3D live action debut sometime next year. Hopefully it will be that cut above the rest that had gone before it.
Do turn up early for the film so that you can catch Wild E Coyote Vs Road Runner in Rabid Rider, which sees the good ol unsuccessful antics that Coyote concocts to catch up with Runner, with hilarious results from his latest hair-brained idea of utilizing the Segway utility vehicle, which turned out to be nothing but expectedly disastrous. A lot more fun unfortunately than the main feature.