Andy Bockelman: ‘Yogi Bear’: Not quite smarter than average family film

Andy Bockelman
Andy Bockelman is a member of the Denver Film Critics Society, and his movie reviews appear in Explore Steamboat and the Craig Daily Press.
Courtesy Photo

'Yogi Bear'

2 out of 4 stars

82 minutes

Starring: Tom Cavanagh, Anna Faris and the voices of Dan Aykroyd and Justin Timberlake.

Sometimes when you’re out among nature, it’s hard to resist providing sustenance for all the cuddly critters of the forest — a few breadcrumbs for a hungry deer, an apple core for a friendly raccoon.

But, other times the local fauna takes the initiative to get its own food, even if not all the animals can pull off the pork pie hat and tie ensemble of “Yogi Bear” while satisfying their munchies.

Welcome to Jellystone Park, a perfect place for families to hike, swim and enjoy all the splendor of the outdoors. And, most visitors like to complete the day’s activities with a nice picnic lunch.

That’s where resident Yogi Bear (voice of Dan Aykroyd) comes in. With his sidekick Boo Boo (Justin Timberlake), Yogi has spent his entire life on an endless quest to sate his belly with the goodies contained in the coolers and “pic-a-nic” baskets of Jellystone’s sightseers.

The park’s head honcho, Ranger Smith (Tom Cavanagh), considers Yogi and Boo Boo to be pests but harmless ones, though he worries the bears’ shenanigans may be negatively affecting tourism. But, what becomes a minor concern soon becomes a pressing matter when the local mayor (Andrew Daly) declares that Jellystone will be shut down due to budgetary concerns.

And, while the ranger racks his brain to think of a way to save the nature sanctuary, Yogi and Boo Boo have their own plans to save their home.

After all, we are talking about someone who’s smarter than the average bear.

Aykroyd does a dead-on recreation of vocal actor Daws Butler’s characterization of Yogi, which in turn was an impression of “The Honeymooners” star Art Carney. The comedian brings just the right amount of boom and bluster to the classic cartoon character known for being one of the least crafty thieves of all time.

He does draw up a nice schematic for his crazy plots, though, even if his back-up plan is just a sketch of him and his pal plunging out of the sky, screaming.

Speaking of which, Timberlake surprises with his own respectable imitation of Boo Boo, who, as always, serves as Yogi’s cohort and occasionally his conscience. But, the former ‘N Sync singer’s personality shines through once the little bear shows just how well he can bust a move.

Cavanagh is perfectly square as nature-loving Ranger Smith, who may have found his soulmate in a documentarian (Anna Faris) who wants to film the majesty of Jellystone, as well as its two most famous occupants.

Cue camera mugging in the extreme from the ursine duo.

The CGI effects that let our furry friends come to life are a small notch above those in “Garfield,” “Scooby Doo” and “Alvin and the Chipmunks,” proving that the technology still has yet to reach flawlessness. But, although Yogi and Boo Boo don’t look particularly realistic, at least they’re given some personality by their voice actors.

The fact that a pair of fake animals is much more three-dimensional than flesh and blood people doesn’t say much for the story, which can’t really sustain the demands of a full-length feature.

Kids may not mind since most youngsters are relatively new to the characters, but adults who grew up watching Yogi’s antics whether during the run of the original 1960s show or its many recreations will concur that the Saturday morning format is best.

And, screenwriters, can we finally get past the movie cliché of the heartless politician/businessman trying to take over a natural setting for timber, oil or whatever resource may be available?

While it’s undemanding and cute enough to be bearable, the main detraction of “Yogi Bear” is knowing that it’s probably just opening the floodgates for plenty more subpar live-action updates of Hanna-Barbera cartoons.

We’ve already had “The Flintstones” and “Josie and the Pussycats,” among others, with “The Smurfs” already on the way for later in the year.

It feels like tempting fate to start pitching ideas for comedians to take up such roles, but do we really need to see Jeff Foxworthy as Huckleberry Hound or Eddie Murphy as Hong Kong Phooey? Of course, the worst of the worst would be Steve Martin as Snagglepuss.

He’s already been in enough bad movies involving a pink panther.

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