Yogi Bear

Movie Information

The Story: A greedy mayor wants to sell off Jellystone Park to logging interests. The Lowdown: A hardly inspired TV cartoon is turned into an even less inspired feature film.
Genre: Semi-Animated Kiddie Cash Grab
Director: Eric Brevig (Journey to the Center of the Earth)
Starring: Dan Aykroyd (voice), Justin Timberlake (voice), Anna Faris, Tom Cavanagh, T.J. Miller, Andrew Daly
Rated: PG

I’m inclined—probably for my own amusement, since there was otherwise none to be found here—to view Eric Brevig’s Yogi Bear (in 3-D) as possibly being a subversive film. How so? Well, it all goes back to that early poster—you know, the one that shows a glassy-eyed Yogi standing behind a wide-eyed Boo Boo with the tagline, “Great things come in bears” (the one that caused such rude Internet mirth). Now, let us consider that “bear” is slang for “hairy gay man.” Then there’s the movie itself. I haven’t encountered such a fixation on baskets since the Village People were popular. The only thing the title character thinks about is baskets. He obsesses on them. He even builds a device called the “Basket Nabber,” and at one point Ranger Smith (TV actor Tom Cavanagh) admiringly observes, “That bear sure knows how to grab a basket.” Now, I ask you—what is one to make of all this?

OK, so if you don’t like that reading of the movie, what are you left with? Well, not much. You’ve got CGI versions of a pair of old TV cartoon characters thrust into a story that has about as much material—and possibly less depth—than one of the five-to-six-minute cartoons from the late 1950s. The movie certainly makes less sense than the cartoons. Evil Mayor Brown (Andrew Daly, a kind of bargain-basement Bruce Davison) plans on selling Jellystone Park to loggers, and Ranger Smith has only a short time to make the park profitable or face the incommodious prospect of taking up residency in the street. So the big question is how to save Jellystone. That’s the crux of the plot.

The bright idea—mostly put forth by Smith’s love interest, visiting documentary filmmaker Rachel (unbelievably played by Anna Faris)—is to attempt to cash in on the park’s 100th anniversary. Apparently, Smith is too dumb to have realized the potential of such a celebration on his own. Actually, since he seems blissfully unaware that a couple of talking bears might have some crowd appeal, that’s not hard to believe. Then again, the promotional value of chatty bruins seems to escape everyone’s notice, so it is perhaps unfair to single out one specimen of Boobus Americanus for condemnation.

Naturally, this is not in the mayor’s best interest, so he enlists the aid of the other park ranger, Jones (an exceedingly annoying stand-up comic named T.J. Miller), who is hungry for Smith’s job as head ranger. This isn’t hard to understand, since Smith is pretty much a horse’s rectum in his treatment of Jones. Of course, it’s a given that Jones is even dumber than Smith, so he’s not much good at sabotage—until he dupes Yogi into helping entertain the crowds. Mindless of the fact that a water-skiing bear might have an appeal (so long as PETA doesn’t hear of it), Smith has forbidden Yogi’s participation, but it’s not hard to convince Smith otherwise. “Comedic” disaster ensues.

Will it all work out? Well, yes, though you mayn’t immediately guess by what curious terrapin-ex-machina means. Will you care? I can’t imagine why. I suppose some may consider discovering that Boo Boo occasionally suffers from flatulence somehow edifying. It’s knowledge I could have done just fine without. If you must know, the 3-D is pretty decent—assuming you care for sodas and popcorn being spewed at you, not to mention a grub worm being discharged from Yogi’s left nostril. And Dan Aykroyd and Justin Timberlake acquit themselves admirably as the voices of Yogi and Boo Boo. Too bad they aren’t given anything to say worth hearing. Rated PG for some mild rude humor.

About Ken Hanke
Head film critic for Mountain Xpress from December 2000 until his death in June 2016. Author of books "Ken Russell's Films," "Charlie Chan at the Movies," "A Critical Guide to Horror Film Series," "Tim Burton: An Unauthorized Biography of the Filmmaker."

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