Monday, January 10, 2011

Yogi Bear / *½ (PG)

Featuring the voice talents of:
Yogi Bear: Dan Aykroyd
Boo Boo: Justin Timberlake

And Starring:
Ranger Smith: Tom Cavanagh
Rachel: Anna Faris
Ranger Jones: T.J. Miller
Mayor Brown: Andrew Daly
Chief of Staff: Nathan Corddry

Warner Bros. Pictures presents a film directed by Eric Brevig. Written by Jeffrey Ventimila & Joshua Sternin and Brad Copeland. Based on characters created by William Hanna, Joseph Barbera and Ed Benedict. Running time: 80 min. Rated PG (for some mild rude humor).

I’m going to be honest right up front. “Yogi Bear” was not made for me. First, it was made for kids, plain and simple. As an adult, I can’t hope to get out of it what a kid will. Second, I never liked Yogi Bear, even when I was a kid.

That being said, “Yogi Bear” isn’t a good movie. It may not be as bad as others made in the same vein, like “Alvin and the Chipmunks”. I really don’t know. It’s hard to tell. It seemed to entertain my two boys well enough. Better for them than many movies that are certainly of higher quality. For an adult, it’s hard to get around the ridiculousness of its premise, which is an element that children really don’t care about. The plot is just a machination to set up silly sight gags. The humor just isn’t good enough for me to recommend it.

The events take us to Jellystone Park where Ranger Smith (Tom Cavanagh, the television show “Ed”) runs a fairly small nature preserve that happens to be the home of Yogi Bear (voiced by Dan Aykroyd, “Ghostbusters”), who makes it his living mission to steal “pic-i-nic” baskets from the few campers that visit the place. Yogi has a sidekick bear named Boo Boo (voiced by Justin Timberlake, “The Social Network”), who seems to understand that Yogi’s plots to get his hands on picnic baskets are absurd, but goes along with them anyway.

A threat comes about when Mayor Brown (Andrew Daly, HBO’s “Eastbound & Down”) decides to close Jellystone and sell logging rights for its trees to balance the city’s budget, which is in the hole due to his personal spending of city money. Brown is running for the State Senate, so he will stop at nothing to balance the budget. He makes an absurd deal with Smith that if Smith can bring in $25,000 of revenue within a week, he’ll abandon the sale of the park. He enlists Smith’s inept cohort, Ranger Jones (T.J. Miller, “How to Train Your Dragon”), to thwart any plans Smith comes up with to raise the money. It’s always a good idea to get incompetents to help with your nefarious schemes.

Meanwhile, a nature documentarian named Rachel (Anna Faris, “Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs”) comes to Jellystone to film bears in their natural habitat. She’s aware of Jellystone’s unique bear residents and wishes to use them for her hidden cameras. That’s because they wear ties and hats and things in which you can hide a camera, unlike other animals. Of course, Rachel’s presence offers a romantic interest for Ranger Smith, because every movie about a talking bear needs human romance.

Now, this whole set up is what really gets me. Everyone is sure that Yogi’s antics are what will bring down any of Smith’s plans to bring in the money on time. Smith’s grand plan is a fireworks show for the park’s 100th anniversary. Really?! Fireworks?! Really? Even though this horribly unimaginative attraction looks like it’s going to work; Yogi, certainly enough, destroys the fireworks display. But, all is not lost. Rachel has captured images of an endangered animal in Jellystone. This means the park can be saved from destruction if Smith can find the animal before Brown does. Really?! Is all that necessary? Or am I the only one who thinks having a talking bear in residence would attract a great deal of revenue and warrant saving his natural habitat from destruction? I’m just saying.

Now, I don’t expect these questions to occur to the film’s target audience members, kids ten and under; but it might give me more hope for our future if they did. There’s a great deal for young children to enjoy here. There’re some effective physical humor gags, mostly performed by the CGI characters. Unfortunately, there’s really not anything else to be gleaned from this thinly plotted clunker. While the kids may laugh at Yogi getting yet another wedgie, their parents will only find suffering here. You’d be better off to please all parties by watching one of the clever and enlightening films that Pixar has produced of late. You’ll fear less for our future.

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