Yogi may be “smarter than the average bear,” but as the latest family-friendly cartoon to merge CG effects with wacky live-action antics, Warner Bros’ Yogi Bear is average at best.
52 years after his television debut, the Hanna-Barbera icon is just as you remember him, bellowing the same familiar catch phrases (“Hey there, Boo Boo!”) and feeding his insatiable appetite for the contents of picnic, or “pic-a-nic,” baskets.
But after the intial (re)introduction of Yogi and his faithful sidekick Boo Boo, the PG movie settles into the lazy conventions of a typical kid flick. The talking, dancing bears are surrounding by even more cartoonish humans, like dopey Ranger Smith (Tom Cavanagh), his overzealous deputy (T.J. Miller), and his obligatory love interest, Rachel (Anna Faris).
Together they must band together to save Jellystone Park from a corrupt mayor (Andrew Daly) and his yes man (Nate Corddry), who spend most of their screen time trying (and failing) to sell a recurring car window gag. Thus, Yogi’s picnic haven joins the ranks of countless other helpless elements in need of rescuing (usually it’s Christmas) as each bumbling, forgettable scene fits into the all-too-common, predictable formula.
Dan Aykroyd provides the waggish voice of Yogi, assuming the necktied bear’s goofy tone and ascending speech pattern with relative ease. However, the vocal stylings of Justin Timberlake are unidentifiable among Boo Boo’s nasally naysayings, and, ultimately, his involvement is as necessary as those celebrities (including Faris) adding their high-pitched squeals to the equally grating Alvin and the Chipmunks series.
Faris is her usual plucky self while Cavanagh appropriately mugs for the camera, but Miller is an awkward bundle of disjointed comedic timing who never seems comfortable outside their forced romance, the animated duo, and the rhythmic banter of Daly and Corddry.
Conceived and shot in 3D, the movie makes considerable use of the technique, both for gimmicky purposes when objects virtually zip into the audience and for adding noticeable depth to its wooded New Zealand locales. Director Eric Brevig (Journey to the Center of the Earth) ably utilizes his experience with the technology, but the extra dimension contributes little to an otherwise flat story.
Sporadic slapstick humor and typical talking animal hijinks are sure to delight the much younger crowd, but there isn’t much in the mercifully-short 80 minutes to occupy adults. Unless you are hopelessly nostalgia-stricken or toting a toddler, Yogi Bear is a must-skip.
2 out of 5.