The name Yogi Bear drums up fond thoughts of childhood. Depending on which decade you grew up in, you either watched the cartoon when it originally aired or in reruns during the after-school animated time block on broadcast TV or on TBS. Personally, I preferred The Flintstones and The Jetsons. Something about humans not letting Yogi get his picnic basket always pissed me off. So, I stuck to prehistoric antics or futuristic daydreaming. What made Yogi great were the simplistic stories of a “smarter than the average bear,” who managed to do right even when he was doing wrong or botching things up for Ranger Smith at Jellystone Park. When I heard Dan Aykroyd was cast as the voice of Yogi in the movie adaptation, I was immediately enthused. If you know Aykroyd, you can immediately picture him playing the voice. However, the film put Yogi in a poorly contrived political plot that is too painful to watch. Although the film has a handful of jokes, the Blu-ray special features end up being more entertaining than the actual film.
Yogi Bear starts off with a laugh. The smarter than the average bear and his little buddy Boo Boo (Justin Timberlake) are doing what they do best – stealing picnic baskets. Terrific. This is the Yogi we love. Then things start to go awry. We’re introduced to Ranger Smith (Tom Cavanagh). He’s the dull ranger just like in the cartoon. So to try and spice up the story the creative team decided to add in Ranger Jones (T.J. Miller). This is where everything starts to take a sharp turn in the wrong direction.
The Ranger Jones character is just about as dumb as a rock (if not dumber) and is utterly painful to watch. The torture doesn’t stop there. Next, Rachel (Anna Faris) is added in to the mix to give Ranger Smith a love interest. There are a lot of googly eye glances exchanged and you can predict where this plot thread is going. Ouch, it gets worse. Mayor Brown (Andrew Daly) and his Chief of Staff (Nathan Corddry) are thrown in as the atrocious villains ripped right out of the 1960s. The only thing that could make the Mayor worse would be a large mustache to twirl. He is running for re-election and needs to sell Jellystone to raise money. The scene is overly cheesy and unbelievable. It’s hard to watch without wincing in agony.
The film goes on its awkward downward spiral. Yogi and Boo Boo manage to get their laughs in when they can. It’s actually sad because if you’re a fan of the original cartoon you can see some great Yogi references. For instance, he makes a picnic-basket snatching device that is a throwback to Yogi’s animated ingenuity. However, scenes with the Mayor, his Chief of Staff and Ranger Jones sap any potential humor.
The Blu-ray special features are actually funnier to watch than the movie. There’s an interactive map of Jellystone Park. This provides you with several featurettes, ranging from behind-the-scenes footage to cast audition tapes. You get to see Timberlake and Aykroyd working in the studio. It is also really fun to watch Miller’s audition tape, which he did with an actual bear. After watching it, you’ll wish they did not put Miller in such a stupid role. There’s also a memory game and a new Looney Tunes animated short called “Rabid Rider.” The short is done in CG and features Wile E. Coyote and the Road Runner.
Yogi Bear is not the movie you would hope it to be. It’s easily one of the worst adaptations of a treasured series from yester-year. The Blu-ray special features are better than the movie. The only saving grace in watching the actual film in Blu-ray is skipping past the scenes that include the Mayor, his Chief of Staff and Ranger Jones. Then, you can enjoy Yogi and Boo on their own, both of whom were excellently voiced by Aykroyd and Timberlake.