"Smarter than the average bear!"
Doesn't it make you wonder for whom studios make films? I mean, they must, I'm sure, do considerable market research on a title before producing it. Warner Bros.' 2010 live-action/CG-animated release "Yogi Bear," for example, did fair business at the box office but gets no plaudits from this reviewer for originality, invention, humor, adventure, or common sense. Yet, I ask, who was the audience? The filmmakers must have figured some viewers would be adults nostalgic for the old TV show, but the new movie is so absurdly juvenile it hardly seems aimed at grown-ups, nostalgic or no. And the TV show ended over two decades ago, meaning most kids would probably not even recognize the main character. My point is that there is no reason a good show for children shouldn't appeal to older viewers as well; Disney and Pixar have been proving this for years. If there were more wit, wisdom, or whimsy to "Yogi Bear," maybe it would have turned a greater profit instead of barely making more than its production costs.
But what do I know. If it seems as though I'm rambling, it's because I'm trying to avoid thinking back on the movie. Once was enough. Still, younger children might find it worthwhile if they're easily amused. The thing bored this adult to tears.
The setting, as always, is Jellystone Park, where Yogi Bear (voiced by Dan Aykroyd) and his diminutive pal Boo Boo (voiced by Justin Timberlake) make their home, foraging in the wild, as always, for picnic baskets of goodies. They and a turtle are the only CGI-animated characters in the film, the rest of the cast made up of real people. The filmmakers, led by director Eric Brevig ("Journey to the Center of the Earth"), shot the movie in Auckland, New Zealand; I suppose all the forests in the U.S. were closed at the time.
I found Yogi and Boo Boo somewhat creepy in their CGI guise. They don't actually look like real bears but like the cartoon bears of the old Hanna-Barbera TV show, which is fine; yet they're not quite cartoon bears, either, which tends to diminish one's belief in them as cartoon bears or real bears. They're just...odd. They are, however, soft and fuzzy-looking, cuddly in a proper teddy-bear fashion. They reminded me that Yogi (TV incarnation or CGI movie) is probably responsible for the maiming and killing of more idiot tourists each year than any character in history. "Look, Martha, a bear! Go feed it a scrap, and I'll get your picture with him." Don't think it hasn't happened more than once.
Fortunately, both Aykroyd and Timberlake do a good job with their voice characterizations, meaning they sound like the television characters we remember, and they inject a good deal of spirit into their roles. (Hanna and Barbera patterned the character of Yogi on Art Carney's part as Ed Norton in the old "Honeymooners" show, complete with Norton's hat, tie, and voice inflections.) Unfortunately, the script gives the actors little to say or do that's in the least bit humorous. In fact, the screenplay makes both characters into dunces, always screwing up the situation as though they had no minds or intelligence of any kind. When they were cartoon figures, that worked. But now that they're CGI creations intermingling with real human beings, they seem more frustrating than amusing.
The supporting cast includes Tom Cavanagh as Ranger Smith, the well-meaning head ranger of Jellystone Park; T.J. Miller as Ranger Jones, Smith's dim-witted assistant; Anna Faris as Rachel Johnson, a documentary filmmaker shooting in the park and a romantic interest for Ranger Smith; and Andrew Daly as Mayor Brown, an evil official trying to close down and sell the park for profit. At least the idea of a corrupt politician has the ring of truth about it.
Youngsters might enjoy the movie's colorful locales, lovable if doltish bears, and intermittent slapstick comedy. However, older folks might not appreciate the empty-headed nonsense nor the many distracting screen effects intended to show off the movie's original 3-D presentation. "Yogi Bear" is more often than not just plain hard to bear.
It's not a long movie, so a single-layer BD25 more than suffices, with WB using an MPEG-4 AVC codec for the 1.85:1 ratio, high-definition picture. Everything looks very clean and clear, in the manner of a digitally shot television program, with nary a trace of serious grain in sight. Definition is good, if a tad rough in spots, and colors are quite rich and bright, with facial tones often more than a trifle too red. It's all appropriately cartoonish.
As we might expect in a film like this one, there isn't a whole lot for the lossless 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio to do beyond reproduce dialogue, loud music, and a few sound effects. It's almost nondescript most of the time. There are a couple of noises that have some impact, and the surrounds light up sporadically with the sound of rapids, helicopter props, and the like. We do get a wide front-channel stereo spread, though, and a smooth, easy-to-take midrange, so the audio does what it can.
The movie is only eighty minutes long, so even on a BD25 there is plenty of room left over for extras. The first is a "Yogi Bear Mash-up," about three minutes with the TV and movie incarnations of the character, comparing the old with the new. Next is a series of features exclusive to the Blu-ray disc, starting with an interactive map tour of Jellystone Park in high definition, where you click on an area of the park and then click on an item or location within the area, which takes you to a brief featurette about the item. Here, you'll find out about Dan Aykroyd and Justin Timberlake voicing Yogi and Boo Boo, more about Ranger Jones's Jellystone Park and Ranger Smith's love song to Rachel, more about the Roaring Rapids and Basket-nabbers and so forth. After that is an interactive game called "Are You Smarter Than the Average Bear?" that you can play at three different difficulty levels; followed by a new Looney Tunes cartoon, "Rabid Rider," with Road Runner and Coyote, beautifully animated and more fun than the feature film.
In addition, you'll find eight scene selections; trailers and promos at start-up only; English, French, Spanish, and Portuguese spoken languages; French, Spanish, and Portuguese subtitles; and English captions for the hearing impaired.
Finally, because this is a Combo Pack, you get the high-definition Blu-ray disc, a standard-definition DVD, and a digital copy for iTunes and Windows Media (the offering expiring March 20, 2012). The two discs come in a flimsy Eco-case, further enclosed in a handsomely embossed slipcover.
"Yogi Bear" is as simple as its TV show antecedents, which wouldn't be so bad if the simplicity had come with a spark of imagination. Instead, Yogi and Boo Boo are bumbling boobs, the assistant ranger is a numbskull, the villain is hopelessly corny, the romance is a fizzle, and the humor is naught. As I've said, maybe the color and the scenery and the occasional action will keep the younger ones in the family occupied. Otherwise....