“Jellystone Park, one of the nation’s oldest and most beautiful stretches of wilderness. For years, families have headed out from the busy city eager to enjoy a little camping, fishing, and, of course, observing the park’s natural wildlife…”
He’s smarter than the average bear. Children and adults alike have been watching his adventures since 1959. Yogi and his young sidekick Boo Boo were one of the most popular of the Hanna-Barbera stable of talking animal characters that reached a peak of popularity on the Saturday morning cartoon shows of the 1960’s and 1970’s. The two brown bears lived in the fictional Jellystone Park, which is often considered to be intended as Yellowstone Park. Such real-life fixtures as Old Faithful appeared in the original cartoons. The park was kept in order by Ranger Smith, who was always frustrated by the plots and exploits of Yogi, particularly his obsession with acquiring pic-a-nic baskets. It sure beat foraging, and Yogi would go to incredible lengths just to snatch an unsuspecting camper’s lunch.
Warner Brothers has brought the 50-year-old franchise into the 21st century with a new film that is obviously targeted to both the classic fans and the new, more tech-savvy youngsters of today. The film is a live-action film with Yogi and Boo Boo brought to us through the modern magic of computer animation.
“A genius never questions his instincts. When you have a mind like mine, you can’t blink or you’ll put a kink in your think.”
Yogi (Aykroyd) and Boo Boo (Timberlake) are still up to their old tricks. Yogi’s forever working on some contraption that will nab him a picnic basket from the unsuspecting nature lover. But Yogi’s days of snatching a free lunch may soon be over. The city is in deep financial trouble, and Mayor Brown (Daly) wants to be Governor. He knows he has to turn that red ink to black in order to win the job. His idea? Sell Jellystone Park to the timber companies. There’s a loophole in the city’s charter that allows him to sell any city interest that can’t make its own budget. Apparently, Jellystone hasn’t made its budget for a decade. Ranger Smith (Cavanagh) must find a way to raise the shortfall within a week or risk losing Jellystone. He’s got a lot to do. He has to plan the 100 year anniversary of the park with a fireworks display in the hopes of getting people to buy season passes. He’s smitten with a documentary filmmaker named Rachel (Faris) who wants to study, of all subjects, Yogi. She’s installed a video camera in Boo Boo’s bow tie called the Boo Boo-cam. You just know that’s going to come in handy at some point down the road. The two work together to try and save the park. But Ranger Smith’s assistant ranger, Jones (Miller) feels that he should be the head ranger, and Mayor Brown takes advantage of his vanity to try to sabotage the park’s rescue efforts. And then of course, there’s Yogi, who decides to “help”.
The character was originally voiced by cartoon veteran Daws Butler, who also voiced such favorites as Huckleberry Hound and Quick Draw McGraw. He continued to voice the character until his death in 1988. The voice was certainly distinctive and instantly recognizable to fans of the show. Dan Aykroyd does a pretty admirable job here of delivering the correct tone and Yogi mannerisms in the voice. There are a few times, however, where his own unmistakable voice creeps in and he loses his “Yogi”. It’s a small complaint that the younger generation won’t even notice. Justin Timberlake is more surprising as the timid Boo Boo. The live-action cast is intended to represent a cartoon counterpart except for Ranger Smith. Here they decided to completely rewrite the character. Ranger Smith was a middle-aged guy in the cartoons. Now he’s the much younger Tom Cavanagh, and he has a rather dim-witted assistant played by T.J. Miller. Then there’s Smith’s love interest played by Anna Faris. All of the adults are played quite simple and one-dimensional. You won’t find any inspiring performances in this one. There’s no question that the target audience here is pretty young, and the focus is on the bears. Andrew Daly does a lot of the figurative moustache-twirling as the bad guy here. He’s easy for the kids to boo.
Yogi Bear is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.85:1. The 1080p image is arrived at with an AVC MPEG-4 codec at an average 22 mbps. This movie just never screams high definition. It feels too much like a direct-to-video film, but it cost nearly $80 million to make. The interaction of the computer-generated characters on the real world is very painfully obvious. I think it will be even to the kids. It’s even worse when the interaction involves a real human being. Contrast that with the sharpness and pretty impressive colors of the Jellystone scenes, and it doesn’t quite connect. The reality stuff looks pretty good, but never works with the overall cartoon theme of the movie. Who would have ever thought I’d complain that part of a picture looks too good? Black levels are fair, but the image is too uneven.
The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 is lively, which is to be expected with a kiddie film. There’s enough going on that the kids will find themselves comfortably immersed in Yogi’s antic adventures. There are a few times the music gets urban and a bit too powerful in the sub area. It’s like having one of those thumper cars driving down your street.
All in HD.
Yogi Bear Mash-Up: (3:37) Cast and crew offer their thoughts on the character. The clips include both the movie and original cartoon snippets.
Are You Smarter Than The Average Bear?: Game
Looney Tunes – Rabid Rider: (3:07) Roadrunner cartoon done in CG. It looks quite good. The roadrunner is really blue. I suspect it was run with the movie in theaters.
Spending A Day At Jellystone Park: This is an interactive map that unlocks short little features on the film.
Let’s be honest here. The fact that this is really a charming and harmless kid film is a relief for me. This movie had turkey written all over it. Attempts to revive nostalgic characters have often fallen hard. It seems our memories of what might have been funny can’t compete with the toilet humor and over-the-top impulses of today’s filmmakers and their short-attention-span audience. There is a really bad segment where Yogi dances to I Like Big Butts. It’s mercifully short, as is the 80-minute running time of the film. The script doesn’t linger on the humor. Hey, get the jokes in and out and quickly move on. Some hit. Others fall as off the mark as Yogi’s basket-stealing catapult. Fortunately, there were some pretty solid laughs to be found. The movie pulled in a respectable $100 million domestic. Add in another $100 million world-wide and the point is pretty clear. “I don’t know what it is, but I think they’re just getting started.”