Reviewed by GREG KING
Director: Eric Brevig
Stars: Tom Cavanagh, Anna Faris, Andrew Daly, Nathan Cordrry, voices of Dan Aykroyd, Justin Timberlake.
There have been several misguided attempts to make live action feature film versions of cartoon characters, amongst them The Flintstones, Alvin And The Chipmunks, and the forgettable Rocky And Bullwinkle, which is surely the low point of Robert De Niro’s career. The latest character to undergo a big screen treatment is Yogi Bear, everyone’s favourite “smarter than the average” picnic basket stealing bear from Jellystone National Park, first created by Hanna Barbera in 1958.
The film offers up a mixture of live action and CGI animation. Using similar state of the art animation that previously brought cartoon characters like Alvin and Garfield to life, the filmmakers have brought both Yogi and his diminutive sidekick Boo Boo to life. However, some of the material in the lazy script from director Eric Brevig and his screen writing team of Jeffrey Ventimilia and Joshua Sternin (That ‘70’s Show, etc) seems vaguely reminiscent of the recent Brendan Fraser stinker Furry Vengeance.
At the same time that it is celebrating its centennial, Jellystone Park is under threat when the power hungry and greedy mayor (Andrew Daly) rezones the land to allow logging in order to reap huge profits for his gubernatorial campaign. It’s up to Yogi and Boo Boo to try and save the day. Yogi has to work alongside his sparring partner Ranger Smith (Tom Cavanagh, from tv’s Ed) and a documentary filmmaker (Anna Faris), who has come to make a film about the park’s famous talking bear.
The slapstick humour as Yogi employs various ruses to snatch picnic baskets will amuse younger audiences, but for the most part the humour is laboured and flat. However, what worked in the short cartoons falls flat and lacks charm and seems repetitive when stretched to feature length.
Dan Aykroyd was an inspired casting choice and he captures Yogi’s speech mannerisms accurately, while Justin Timberlake is perfectly cast as the adenoidal Boo Boo. Unfortunately, apart from repeating familiar catch phrases, they are given little to say that is funny. By contrast, the performances of the human cast are uniformly hamfisted and laboured. Young audiences will quickly tire of the subplot involving the corrupt mayor and his unctuous aide (Nathan Cordrry).
Brevig, who hails from a background in special effects, previously directed Journey To The Centre Of The Earth in 3D, and he also uses 3D effects here to hurl various objects at the screen. On the positive side, though, the film has been gorgeously filmed on location in New Zealand, and its natural beauty makes for some breath taking scenery.
This live action version of Yogi Bear is unnecessary, and audiences who are smarter than the average film goer will certainly want to avoid this one!