Yogi may be smarter than the average bear, but the filmmakers behind Yogi Bear must think we’re dumber than a stack of bricks.
The latest live action/CGI animal flick (think Alvin and the Chipmunks and Marmaduke) has hit theaters just before the end of the year, and it may actually play into your favor. One can only hope that your kids will so busy prepping for Santa that they won’t remember they want to see it. Failing that, you can always explain to them that they should just hold out one more week for Jack Black’s Gulliver’s Travels instead. Or, you cna just take them to go see Tangled again (yes, it’s that good.)
Yogi Bear is a true lump of coal, thudding to the bottom of your holiday stocking.
As anyone over the age of 30 remembers from the old Hanna-Barbera cartoons, Yogi (voiced by Dan Aykroyd) is on the eternal hunt for pic-a-nic baskets at Jellystone Park (actually, it’s New Zealand’s Woodhill State Forest). His trusty, pint-sized companion Boo-Boo (voiced by Justin Timberlake) is at his side, continually voicing concerns about his buddy’s actions. Ranger Smith (Tom Kavanagh) is here, too, along with his lieutenant, Ranger Jones (T.J. Miller). But, since Yogi can’t be the ‘bad guy’ (as he essentially was in the cartoons), we’re also introduced to Mayor Brown (Andy Daly), a no-good, money-grubbing politician who decides to sell the logging rights at Jellystone, just so he can continue to afford his custom-tailored suits. (Apparently, no one’s heard the term ‘sustainable forests’ before.)
What starts out as a goofy riff on the original cartoons, with Yogi devising all sorts of schemes and contraptions to acquire the elusive baskets, quickly morphs into a boring morality tale about the perils of our forests (er, make that New Zealand’s forests).
And, oh yes, we also get Anna Faris as a perky, blond, tank-topped, nature documentary filmmaker, (we assume it’s just so the dads have something to look at, because she serves little purpose other than that.)
On the plus side, Yogi Bear has very few fart jokes. On the negative side, having more may have actually helped— at least kids would have something to laugh at. As it is, Yogi Bear just isn’t funny. It’s not even silly. The longest-running joke in the movie is how the Mayor has problems with the automatic windows in his town car, and the big ‘funny’ musical number is Yogi shaking his moneymaker to “Baby Got Back”. Egad.
Even more unfortunate is that the screenwriters actually have a pretty decent pedigree. Jeffrey Ventimilia & Joshua Sternin co-wrote this year’s better-than-decent Tooth Fairy and also scribed eps of The Simpsons and That 70s Show. And Brad Copeland wrote some great episodes of My Name is Earl and Arrested Development. Apparently their talents were all on vacation when it came time to write Yogi.
It’s doubtful that director Eric Brevig (Journey to the Center of the Earth) could have saved the day no matter what he did, but he is partially to blame here, too. It’s not often that you walk out of a 3D kids movie and realize that nothing actually happened. When Yogi and Boo-Boo take to the air in their Basket Nabber 2000 flying machine, for example, there was plenty of room for Brevig to give us some exciting 3D flying scenes, but instead we mostly get static shots of Yogi and Boo-Boo pedaling, mid-air.
When the three-minute Roadrunner-Wile E. Coyote that precedes the movie has more laughs and better action that the movie itself, well… there’s your problem.