Yogi Bear (2010): United States – directed by Eric Brevig
Rated G by the MPAA – contains some mild rude humor, forest fires started by a bear
One might think that a big screen adaptation of Yogi Bear might be ill-fated, and they would not necessarily be wrong. There is not much about the film that excels, but it is mostly inoffensive and has enough slapstick to keep very young audiences entertained.
Tom Cavanagh is Ranger Smith, a nature lover in charge of Jellystone Park. He has lived there much of his life, but the park has never been in this much danger. The mayor (Andrew Daly) of the town (which apparently owns the park; maybe it is not Jellystone National Park?) is in dire straits, having spent the town’s budget on fancy suits and other excesses. With his right hand man (Nathan Corddry) he is intent on finding new sources of revenue. The most obvious is re-zoning Jellystone so he can auction off lumber rights to the highest bidder.
Yogi Bear (voice of Dan Aykroyd) has, until now, been Ranger Smith’s biggest nuisance. He bothers park-goers and attempts to steal their picnic baskets. His sidekick, Boo Boo (Justin Timberlake, on helium), is more rational than Yogi, but seems destined to suffer indignities beside him. When a documentary filmmaker named Rachel (Anna Faris) arrives, Ranger Smith can’t help but fall in love. And Rachel can’t help but fall in love with Jellystone, and Yogi Bear.
Together Ranger Smith and Rachel plot the salvation of the park, though Ranger Jones (T.J. Miller), tempted by promises of promotion, attempts to thwart the anniversary celebration they plan. Instead of using a talking bear as a selling point, Ranger Smith plans a fireworks show for 5:00 pm, clearly the darkest period of the day. Naturally, Yogi shows up and shenanigans ensue.
If you’re a fan of shenanigans, then you might enjoy Yogi Bear. Young fans, in particular, might be amused, though there are enough fires set in the park that Smokey the Bear might be a little upset. And there are far fewer butt jokes (though still a few) than other recent animated titles like Alpha and Omega [review here].
The film starts off with an uninspired voice over by a Morgan Freeman sound-a-like, initially indicating a desire to imitate a nature documentary. This soon dissipates, as the film doesn’t really know what kind of a film it wants to be. Any romance between Ranger Smith and Rachel is flighty and prone to inexplicable change. The story isn’t sure if it’s anti-government or just pro-environmentalist. Maybe some of each. Either way, kids probably won’t mind.
Boo Boo is perhaps the best character, though that comment shouldn’t be taken as high praise. He doesn’t have many lines, but his common sense is a welcome relief from everyone else’s tomfoolery. It just makes it more unfathomable how he is so tightly tethered to Yogi.
The best that can be said about Yogi Bear is that it is not nearly as bad as it might have been. It could have been an absolutely atrocious incoherent jumble, but instead is not entirely unpleasant and distasteful. Many of the jokes fall flat, and much of the humor rests on physical pratfalls. I’m not sure that I’m the intended audience for the film, but while younger crowds might be engaged, there is far more edifying entertainment they could pursue.