What would you do if you knew where a bear lived that could construct complex machinery, carry on an intellectual conversation, and didn’t like the taste of human flesh? You’d exploit it for money of course — especially if it was the only way to save your livelihood. Have it perform a one bear show of Hamlet (or other suitable Shakespearean play) for $50 a person or pose for a photograph for $10 and upsell the tourists with an autograph for an additional $5.25. It is a cash cow and the only way it could be any better was if there were two talking bears to take advantage of.
Come to think of it, there are two “smarter than the average bear” bears that call Jellystone Park their home. Yet the rangers employed there, led by Ranger Smith (Tom Cavanagh), don’t use Yogi Bear (voiced by Dan Aykroyd) or Boo Boo (voiced by Justin Timberlake) to their full potential. Actually in Warner Brothers Yogi Bear, the park rangers keep Yogi away from campers since he’s taken to swiping reveler’s picnic baskets. If you ask me, a stolen lunch or five, is an easily forgivable offense considering his talents . . .
Anyways, in a highly infantile plot, big meanie Mayor Brown (Andrew Daly) needs to find a way to balance the budget while maintaining the lavish lifestyle he currently enjoys at the expense of taxpayers blood, sweat and tears. He’s closed firehouses. He’s slashed funding to social services. During a suit fitting he has an epiphany — the state park is a vast untapped resource. By closing Jellystone and selling the logging rights to the highest bidder he can make so much money he can give cash back to the residents thus guaranteeing him a win for the upcoming gubernatorial race. That’s killing two birds with one stone (a great lesson for the children in the audience). For purposes of keeping the movie moving along, he goads Ranger Smith into trying to stop his nefarious plans. Big mistake Mr. Mayor. Smith enlists the help of a wildlife documentarist named Rachel (a plumped up Anna Faris — where did that rockin’ body from The House Bunny go?) and sets about trying to save the 100-year old park.
I honestly don’t remember much of the 1960s Hanna-Barbara cartoon (nor the many short-lived spin-offs), but I’m relatively sure it wasn’t so missed that a Yogi Bear movie needed to be brought to the big screen. And even if there was a huge outcry for it, I can’t fathom how this movie is the answer people had been clamoring for. The “beloved” bear is poorly rendered — he doesn’t remotely blend into the real world environment he’s supposed to be a part of. It is further aggravating when the live actor and the computer generated actor physically interact with one another and the actions don’t marry up; if it is going to look like the amateurs at the animation studio threw it together then just omit the scenes in their entirety. I’d be remiss if I didn’t smack down the acting — if you can even call it acting — too. It is on par with some of the worst I’ve seen in years. Tom Cavanagh and Anna Faris have absolutely no chemistry and both look equally uncomfortable talking to the green screen. It doesn’t help their cause when the writing provided to them by the tandem of Jeffrey Ventimilia, Joshua Sternin and Brad Copeland is mind numbingly bad.
The only actor who earned his paycheck is Andrew Daly and that’s simply because he was able to be so over-the-top asinine that he couldn’t help but have fun doing it.
Those that grew up with Yogi Bear may find some solace with hearing the, “Hey Boo Boo” catchphrase again but will likely be put off by the sloppy and uninspiring final product. The new generation, like my children, will simply tune Yogi Bear out and wonder aloud why they weren’t watching something cool like TRON: Legacy.