Screen Rant's Paul Young reviews Yogi Bear
Every trailer, poster or movie still leading up to the release of Yogi Bear had me firmly convinced this movie would be juvenile, uninspired and unfunny - so imagine my surprise when it actually ended up showing some charm.
Don’t misunderstand me, director Eric Brevig hasn’t created some new masterpiece of cinema - but he does know who’s in his target audience and how to pander to them intelligently. It was quite refreshing to watch a children’s film that doesn’t to resort to poop jokes, crotch shots or inappropriate behavior to illicit laughs from those under the age of ten. Far too many times films marketed to younger kids insert scenes which make the parent in me cringe – thankfully there are no such scenes in Yogi Bear.
Just like one of the classic 1964 cartoons, Yogi Bear starts off with the resilient, hungry bear coming up with an overly complex plan to swipe an unsuspecting family’s picnic basket in Jellystone Park. His faithful sidekick Boo Boo (voiced by Justin Timberlake) is right there with him serving as his voice of reason, always questioning the practicality and ridiculousness of his basket-snatching contraptions.
Yogi (voiced by Dan Aykroyd), for all his attempts, rarely ends up with the spoils of his endeavors thanks in part to Ranger Smith (Tom Cavanagh) who is a second generation park ranger. It’s obvious that Ranger Smith cares deeply for Jellystone and wants the American public to share his feelings. Unfortunately, since the park hasn’t been profitable in years, the corrupt and selfish Mayor Brown (Andrew Daly) has decided to rezone Jellystone and sell the logging rights in order to make the city money and in turn, buy himself votes for the upcoming Governor’s election.
Ranger Smith only has a week to save the park by raising thirty thousand dollars - and with the help of the cute and sweet documentary filmmaker Rachel (played by a surprisingly un-slutty Anna Faris), the two put on a Centennial Celebration for Jellystone complete with a fireworks show. The plan ultimately (read: expectedly) goes awry when Yogi decides to join in the festivities with an impromptu water skiing show that ends with a good portion of the camp being burned down.
With all seemingly lost, Mayor Brown immediately closes the park, reassigns Ranger Smith, promotes his assistant Ranger Jones (T.J. Miller) to Head Ranger and gives the loggers the OK to begin clearing trees.
This obviously doesn’t sit well with Yogi or Boo Boo, who notify Ranger Smith of Mayor Brown’s dastardly plans. Together they work with Rachel to save Jellystone by making it a government protected park with the help of Boo Boo’s pet turtle.
First the bad news - Ranger Jones and Mayor Brown’s Chief of Staff (Nathan Corddry) are completely annoying and serve no real purpose in the movie. I like Anna Faris but she is at a loss when it comes to acting with CG characters - most of the time she just stands around with this open-mouthed, slack-jawed expression on her face which I guess is supposed to represent surprise and happiness but it just comes across creepy and weird.
The story Jeffery Ventimilia and Joshua Sternin have put together isn’t very strong (though I wasn’t expecting much from the writers of The Tooth Fairy) but it was decent enough to hold the attention of both me and my four year old son.
The CG character/live-action character interaction is by far the worst I have ever seen on screen. This failure falls squarely on the shoulders of Brevig who should have done a better job of instructing the actors on how to interact with something that isn’t there. Most of the time, Cavanagh and Faris just stare off into space either too high or too low and end up talking to Yogi’s belly instead of his face and look like they are hugging a big pile of air instead of a fuzzy, lovable bear.
Now for the good news: all of the scenes which feature Yogi and Boo Boo together are, if the theater full of little kids I watched it is an accurate gauge, very funny - and fortunately Brevig dedicated a lot of film time to them. There is a romance of sorts brewing between the bumbling Ranger Smith and Rachel which comes off as sweet without becoming the focus of the story.
The biggest surprise performance comes from Andrew Daly as Mayor Brown: he chews up every scene he’s in with subdued humor. Usually bad guys in children’s films are outrageously over-the-top to the point of annoyance. Most writers believe that kids won’t be able to figure out on their own who the bad guy is without a series of bad puns, bad haircuts or bumbling behavior.
All and all, Yogi Bear was better than I expected and maybe that’s due in part to my entering the theater with very low expectations. Is it a perfect film? Far from it - but if you have children under the age of ten then they should enjoy it just fine. One only has to listen to the excited laughs of the children in the theater every time Yogi is on screen to realize who this film was made for.
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