The nostalgia factory has been in full force in recent years, churning out such CGI-laden films as Alvin and the Chipmunks and Marmaduke, and now every film -- well, at least visual effects-heavy films -- also utilizes the latest 3D technology. However, technology alone is a poor substitute for quality, as is the case with Yogi Bear. This film comes nearly 50 years after the smarter-than-the-average-bear debuted on television, and parents who watched the classic cartoon will probably remember him as funnier-than-the-average-bear, which says a lot considering the original cartoon wasn’t really all that funny. In this updated version, a 3D-animated Yogi and Boo Boo, alongside live-action actors, attempt to save Jellystone Park from an oily politician set on selling the park to the highest bidder. Kid-friendly sight gags and slapstick work to carry the movie, but overall it lacks a certain charm to even be considered enjoyable.
Yogi Bear (voiced by Dan Aykroyd) runs around Jellystone Park stealing “pic-a-nic” baskets from unsuspecting visitors, with his loyal pal Boo Boo (voiced by Justin Timberlake) at his side, but the future of Jellystone Park is threatened when a crooked mayor (Andrew Daly) somehow gets the deed to the park and plans to close the money-losing facility and sell the lumber rights. Consequently, Ranger Smith (Tom Cavanagh) does what any good park facilitator would do: he plans a big 100th anniversary celebration that he's certain will raise the necessary funds to fend off the crisis, and all he needs is for Yogi to stay out of the way. Of course, that won't happen, and from then on it’s one shenanigan after another.
The premise is pretty ridiculous. I mean, it’s Jellystone National Park, the operative word being national, so the idea that a random statesman could sell it to the private sector screams suspension of disbelief. Perhaps the blame can be placed on the multi-writer script penned by Jeffrey Ventimilia, Joshua Sternin, and Brad Copeland. With lines like “Pic-a-nic baskets may be delicious on the lips, but they’re a lifetime on the hips” and furry animated creatures dancing to outdated dance hits (in this case, “Baby Got Back”), the film is ripe with cringe-worthy moments.
The supporting cast, which includes Tom Cavanagh and Anna Faris, is more cartoonish than the cartoons. Cavanagh plays the extremely unfunny Ranger Smith, who should serve as the straight man to Yogi’s mischievous deeds, but instead makes numerous attempts at humor that fall short, while the considerable talents of Anna Faris, who plays a nature documentarian and terminally perky love interest for Smith, is such a waste here.
At least they restrained themselves from degrading the characters by dropping unnecessary pop-culture references (ahem, Chipmunks), and the film isn’t completely devoid of laughs. One scene in particular involves a lakeside disaster that Yogi creates with a water-ski routine setting off fireworks, and is the perfect example of what does work in this film, as well as its best use of 3D. Still, a word to the wise -- stop trying to update and recycle old premises that barely worked in their original form, and focus on finding new and fresh ideas. leave a comment --Alaina O'Connor