Nostalgia is a funny thing, especially when it pertains to childhood cartoons. How can you replace all of those hours spent with your best friends every Saturday morning? What could POSSIBLY bastardize these cherished memories? Somehow, Hollywood decided that live-action/CGI film adaptation of fondly-remembered cartoon series would be good ideas. From Underdog to Garfield, we have been unfortunate witnesses to such disastrous film adaptations. This year’s Yogi Bear is, you guessed it, no exception.
Yogi Bear stars Dan Aykroyd as Yogi and Justin Timberlake as Boo-Boo, two larger-than-life bears gifted with human-like abilities, such as talking and the yearning for junk food. Yogi’s seemingly never-ending quest to gather picnic baskets from Jellystone Park visitors are constantly thwarted by Ranger Smith (Tom Cavanagh). However, they must team up together against Mayor Brown’s (Andrew Daly) attempts to re-zone the park in his path towards becoming governor. All the while, Rachel (Anna Faris) shoots a documentary on the park and the bears, as well as being a love interest to Ranger Smith.
As is typical of most live-action/CGI adaptations, the plot is very bare-bones, relying more on the nostalgia factor than producing any sort of entertaining narrative. However, especially with children’s films, they have to be funny. Through the 80+ minutes this film ran, I laughed maybe once or twice. Granted, I’m a bit older than the target demographic, but if something’s funny, I’ll laugh. The fact that the rest of the audience, which consisted of little kids with their parents, didn’t laugh any more than I did is a sure testament to just how terrible this script is. I laughed more during the five minutes of the Wile E. Coyote and Road Runner pre-feature than I did through the entirety of Yogi Bear.
Not only is the film bogged down with a horrendous script, but the acting is horrible. Granted, I wasn’t expecting Oscar-like caliber performances, but everybody’s movements are just so exaggerated. Maybe this was done on purpose to accentuate and embody the spirit of the cartoon, sort of like an homage? I’ve seen my fair share of Anna Faris films to know how bland her acting is, but her performance in Yogi Bear is so restrained and lacking any soul or character that I wished she would have given her typical over-the-top performance. But perhaps the biggest culprit is Dan Aykroyd. I don’t know what it is about ex-Ghosbusters turning to crappy cartoon-to-film adaptations (I’m looking at you, Mr. Murray), but we’re now 0 for 2. I don’t know if it’s because I’m so used to Aykroyd’s voice or because I’ve seen a lot of Yogi Bear cartoons, but Aykroyd just couldn’t fit into Yogi’s tie and collar. On more than one occasion, his voice would slip character and would just ruin the fantasy. In contrast, Timberlake did a decent enough role as Boo-Boo. To be honest, I’m not sure if Boo-Boo’s voice is all Timberlake, or if it’s been modified digitally, but it sounded great. Who’d have thought to say Timberlake would be a better actor than Aykroyd at any time in their lives?
If there had to be one saving grace, it’d have to be the CGI characters themselves. Usually, CGI models have this shiny top layer that makes them stick out from the rest of the scene, but Yogi and Boo-Boo are fortunately saved from this. Out of the recent cartoon-to-crap adaptations, Yogi Bear stays the truest to the original designs. You’d think this would be a priority with all adaptations, but again, have you seen Garfield?!
I actually volunteered to see Yogi Bear, expecting a decent children’s film. However, all I left the theater with was a pie in the face. If you’re considering seeing this with your kids, do yourselves a favor and just watch reruns on cable or DVD.
Yogi Bear will attempt to reel you in with its nostalgia factor. However, despite its characters, the film has no resemblance to the cartoons you remember so dearly. The writing is the worst I’ve seen in years and, outside of Justin Timberlake’s Boo-Boo, the acting is just devoid of soul and energy. Proceed with caution… or better yet, don’t proceed at all.