Yogi Bear DVD review
|REVIEWS - DVD REVIEWS|
Hey there, Boo-Boo...what's in that picnic basket?...
Adapting a popular Marvel/DC superhero to the big screen is not an easy task for filmmakers, as most of the movies made recently alternate from superb to dire in equal measures. Try doing the same thing to an equally popular cartoon character and the end results usually vary from below average to downright inept. One only has to look at the cinema versions of Scooby Doo and The Flintstones to see how bad they can be presented on the big screen, although they were successful enough to produce even worse sequels.
Of the Hanna-Barbara cartoon characters that regularly appeared on children’s television (the list includes Huckleberry Hound, Touché Turtle and Lippy the Lion), Yogi Bear remains the best loved among kids of a certain decade (or two!). Such was his popularity, he even had his own feature film - Hey There, It’s Yogi Bear (1964) - and a less successful TV sequel Yogi’s Gang (1973).
Unlike most of the food foraging grizzly residents of Jellystone Park, Yogi, the “smarter than average” bear, and shy little buddy Boo-Boo, spend their days pinching pic-a-nic baskets from unsuspecting visitors - much to the annoyance of Ranger Smith - almost all of which lands them in trouble.
In this adaptation, Jellystone is approaching its 100th Anniversary, but thanks to Yogi’s constant pic-a-nic nicking (try saying that after a few beers!) the park is not attracting enough visitors to stay open. The situation becomes worse when the corrupt Mayor Brown (Andrew Daly) decides to sell off the land for industrial development.
With only a few days to raise enough money to keep the park open, can Yogi (voice of Dan Aykroyd), Boo-Boo (voice of Justin Timberlake), Ranger Smith (Tom Cavanagh) and geeky naturist filmmaker Rachel (Anna Faris) save the day? Considering Jellystone’s main attraction is two talking bears, you would think people would flock to the place!
Yogi may be a “smarter than average bear”, but this feeble effort is certainly not a “smarter than average movie”. I'll admit right from the start, the film lacks the spark of the cartoon series. Slackly directed by Eric Brevig, the unconvincing CGI effects do not mix well with the live action, the plot is wafer thin, the jokes obvious and well telegraphed, and the live characters look more like cartoons than the actual bears!
Playing the troublesome Yogi, Dan Aykroyd totally overplays everything. Quite clearly he’s lost much of his comic timing in a role he should have excelled at. On the other hand Justin Timberlake plays Boo-Boo to perfection. Not only is the voice just right, the sense of shyness is very apparent. If anything it is Timberlake who gives the film its heart.
The live performances range from amateurish to ham-fisted. Okay it’s meant to be a kid’s film and the acting is aimed that way, but there’s a big difference between being silly and being annoying. As soon as the film flags (which is quite early on), the actors go over-the-top, and as a result the whole thing becomes rather strained. Only Anna Faris emerges with some credit, but let’s face it, for all her attempts to act like a nerd who cannot get a guy, she still looks like a babe! Can you honestly believe she can’t get a date with anyone?
Trying to expand a five-minute cartoon into a feature length cinematic is like stretching a small elastic band; you can go only so far before it snaps. Yogi is much more fun in the enjoyable Hey There, It’s Yogi Bear film - one that worked because it kept to the basic animation that made the cartoons so good in the first place (plus it had a decent storyline). Turning Yogi into a three dimensional CGI character simply removes a great deal of his charm, and mixing CGI with live action always looks phoney in these kind of films.
I suppose the film’s main target audience is very young children so any kind of negative criticism from me would be pretty pointless. No doubt we will soon get a direct-to-DVD sequel very soon. Unfortunately those who grew up on Yogi will be left very disappointed with this very poor effort.
The DVD special features are not very interesting. It includes two short films entitled 'Jellystone Park' and 'Jewell', both of which are presented by Ranger Jones (T J Miller – looking as blank as he does in the film). The first one, sub-entitled 'Litter Bug', is really a public information film about keeping the park tidy. The second, subtitled 'Yogi’s Secret Hiding Place', has Ranger Jones finding a variety of items - usually behind trees - that Yogi has helped himself to. That one should have ended with a punchline.
The final special feature is called 'Yogi Bear Mash-Up'. It’s a brief short about the making of the film with good-humoured interviews with the cast and crew (Anna Faris is conspicuously absent) interspersed with clips from the original cartoons, which, to be honest, are much more fun to watch. Perhaps they should have included a special feature about the history of Yogi Bear.
There’s one thing I noticed while watching the movie; one irritable point that must now be mentioned - other than Yogi and Boo-Boo, there is a distinct lack of bears!
Yogi Bear is available now on DVD and Blu-ray.
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