Those readers out there old enough to remember watching cartoons before 1996 will likely agree with me that the most holiest name in televised animation was Hanna-Barbera. When I was a kid, I literally couldn’t go a day without seeing at least one Hanna-Barbera cartoon, and that includes Sunday, because my second favorite cartoon of all time to this day, “SWAT Kats: The Radical Squadron,” aired on Sundays on the local access channel.
Unfortunately, live-action adaptations of classic H-B cartoons have not always been successful, and the sequels doubly so. “Yogi Bear” bucks this trend, not by much, but by just enough for me to enjoy it for what it is. “Yogi Bear” is good, clean family fun.
“Yogi Bear” doesn’t deviate much from the cartoon at all. Yogi (Dan Aykroyd) and his pal Boo-Boo (Justin TImberlake) are up to their usual tricks stealing “pic-a-nic’ baskets from campers in Jellystone Park, much to the annoyance of Ranger Smith (Tom Cavanaugh), when nature documentarian Rachel (Anna Faris) comes to the park to film Yogi in his natural habitat using the Boo-Boo Cam, a micro camera implanted in Boo-Boo’s bow tie. Sparks fly between Smith and Rachel almost instantly.
Enter Mayor Brown (Andrew Daly) who is looking to bring the city back from the verge of bankruptcy (because he keeps charging insane amounts of personal items to the city) by opening up the less and less visited park to logging. He tells Smith of a bylaw saying that if the park couldn’t make back its operating costs of over $10,000, the park will be closed and rezoned. Now it’s up to Yogi, Boo-Boo, Smith and Rachel to find a way to raise the money and keep Jellystone open.
Personally, I thought it wasn’t bad. The acting was good for what it is and there weren’t many miscues. Tom Cavanaugh was just “bumbling” enough to be a credible Ranger Smith. Dan Aykroyd pretty well nailed Yogi’s voice, and I give Justin Timberlake some props for his work. I know I bagged on him hardcore as a member of ‘NSYNC, but so far, his Hollywood reputation is pretty solid. Andrey Daly was a particularly comedic scummy bad guy, with Nate Corddry being a very funny yes-man. Anna Faris has come along way since “Scary Movie.” Her portrayal of Rachel in “Yogi Bear” is sometimes good, sometimes bad.
I want to talk about the humor of this movie for just a moment, because while it’s cliched, stilted and just plain old, I still found myself laughing, because the humor is genuine. There were geek jokes, appropriately said by geek characters, most notably Ranger Smith’s profession of love to Rachel when he said “Without you, I’m a genus without a phylum” (I’ll wait for everyone to come back from looking up why that works). There were jokes within jokes, there were funny references, and there were some adult jokes in there too. I liked Yogi’s rendition of the classic “Hide the evidence!” paranoia spiel when he got caught with the catapult.
I will be completely honest, I have no clue why other critics are judging this film so harshly. With all due respect for my fellow critics out there, it seems to me that they’ve forgotten two key things: The movie was made to make money, which it will, just not as much as it thought, and it’s a kid’s movie. Keep a high standard of quality, by all means, but remember where you are, is all I’m saying.
Would I pay $9 to see it again? No, because I ruined myself by watching it in 3D for the first time. And let me just say that 3D works quite well for this movie, especially the scene where Yogi eats a guacamole covered tortilla chip in bullet time as he’s about to fall. But $6 is very reasonable to go see it when it opens Dec. 17.
. . .
Follow Chris Hyatt on Twitter at http://twitter.com/hyattch.