***1/2 (out of 5)
December 17, 2010
Dan Aykroyd as YOGI BEAR
Justin Timberlake as BOO BOO
Anna Faris as RACHEL
Tom Cavanagh as RANGER SMITH
T.J. Miller as RANGER JONES
Nathan Corddry as CHIEF OF STAFF
Andrew Daly as MAYOR BROWN
Directed by: Eric Brevig
BY KEVIN CARR
Listen to Kevin’s radio review…
Like many film critics out there, when I first saw the trailer for “Yogi Bear,” I rolled my eyes and sighed, anticipating another substandard talking animal movie. Then, after a few days had past, I questioned why I rolled my eyes. My initial thought were wondering how the memory of such a great cartoon could be trampled by a movie like this.
And that got me thinking about the original cartoons. My kids are ages two, seven and nine, and when the older ones were really young, we watched a lot of Boomerang together. This meant that we saw plenty of old Hanna-Barbera classics in their raw, cheap glory. And thinking back to those “Yogi Bear” cartoons among old episodes of “Richie Rich” and “Magilla Gorilla,” I realized that they really weren’t all that great.
Oh, they were fun to watch as kids, but they all followed the same formula. Yogi would scheme to get pic-i-nic baskets, and the Ranger would get irritated at him and yell a lot.
It was at this point that I realized that I had fallen into the faux nostalgia trap that so many people do. We saw it with “Clash of the Titans” earlier this year, where people bemoaned it not being as good as the original but forgetting that the original really wasn’t thick on story and characters.
And so I went into “Yogi Bear” with a fresh eye… and with two other pairs of eyes: my two oldest sons. And I gave it a shot. I was not disappointed.
The movie has very much the same plot as the old cartoons. Yogi and Boo Boo are annoying Ranger Smith by stealing pic-i-nic baskets from campers. Some new elements were added, including an adorable nature documentarian played by Anna Faris and a smarmy mayor who is trying to sell the logging rights to Jellystone Park.
It was pointed out to me by a colleague that Yogi and Boo Boo trying to save the wilderness is eerily similar to “Furry Vengeance,” but it’s done so much better here. Sure, it’s going to annoy the heck out of those who hate the talking animal movies. (I personally don’t. Some, like the aforementioned “Furry Vengeance” was awful, but others like “Alvin and the Chipmunks,” “Beverly Hills Chihuahua” and “G-Force” were ones that I enjoyed watching with my kids.) But for people like me, it’s a lot of fun to watch with the kids.
The voice cast of Dan Aykroyd and Justin Timberlake is actually quite good. While Aykroyd is in the voice quite a bit, it’s Timberlake who shines as Boo Boo. I’ve said for years that this guy is a good actor, and it might be a talking cartoon bear that proves it to everyone else.
Then there’s the 3D aspect of the movie. “Yogi Bear” was shot with the same Fusion camera system that was used for “Avatar,” and it’s a refreshing sight to actually see one of these smaller release kids movies that actually takes care with the 3D. Yeah, it’s very gimmicky with plenty of things flying at the screen, but that’s fine with me. That just adds depth to the film and makes it interesting for the younger viewers.
So, I liked “Yogi Bear.” It’s not without its faults, but considering some of the truly terrible films that have employed computer generated versions of beloved characters, this is refreshingly faithful to the original cartoons.
Be prepared for lots of low-brow silliness and release the kid in your heart (and hopefully bring your own kids with you so you don’t look like the creepy guy at a kids movie alone), and maybe like me, you’ll find yourself having a good time in Jellystone Park.