Dan Aykroyd, Justin Timberlake Sink in Horrible ‘Yogi Bear’

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CHICAGO – “Yogi Bear,” the latest degradation in the cynical family film 3D marketing universe, has done the improbable. It has taken notable and nostalgic cartoon characters (Yogi and Boo Boo) and turned them into animatronic shills for a post modern bore of a story that wouldn’t work if Fellini were directing it. Dan Aykroyd and Justin Timberlake sell out (I mean lend) their voice talents.

Yogi Bear (voice of Aykroyd) and Boo Boo (Timberlake), live in Jellystone Park, a freakishly idyllic National Wildlife Preserve. Yogi continuously bothers Ranger Smith (Tom Cavanagh) as he continuously launches plots to steal “pick-a-nic” baskets from unsuspecting park patrons. He is aided by the wacky Ranger Jones (T.J. Miller), a clueless associate who seeks the top job.

Circumstances take a turn when Rachel (Anna Faris), a comely nature documentary maker (aren’t they all comely?) comes to Jellystone to chronicle the talking bears (who wouldn’t?). Ranger Smith is smitten by Rachel, and awkwardly begins to pursue the relationship. At the same time, the evil mayor (Andrew Daly) of Jellystone-Ville – here called “the city”– wants to close Jellystone and sell the timber rights to fund his coffers, helped by his Chief of Staff (Nathan Corddry).

Smarter Than the Average Target Audience: Boo Boo (Justin Timberlake) and Yogi (Dan Aykroyd) in ‘Yogi Bear’
Smarter Than the Average Target Audience: Boo Boo (Justin Timberlake) and Yogi (Dan Aykroyd) in ‘Yogi Bear’
Photo credit: © Warner Bros. Pictures

Will Yogi and Boo Boo, despite exasperating Ranger Smith on a daily basis, help Rachel and the Ranger save the park? Of course. Have you ever been to a “family” film before?

The story makes 3D particularly annoying. Yogi and Boo Boo are both frighteningly too real as portrayed, and expose the fact they were drawn in later by how the live actors interact with them. It’s a new level of “look at the orange ball on a stick” stiffness. Their was something pleasingly interactive about the original Hanna Barbera cartoons that is completely lost in this film, Yogi and Boo Boo seem like mere props to the grindingly stupid situation. The 3D is useless here, it looks again like it was an afterthought.

The story also exposes the problem with expanding seven minute 1960s Hanna-Barbera cartoons into full-length features. Yogi steals picnic baskets, okay, now what are we to do with the rest of the 73 minutes, especially with audiences in 2010? Will they dance to “I Like Big Butts?” Sure. Will they make fart jokes? Yep. Will they disappear for several minutes while the live actors either overact (the mayor) or seem like they’re sleepwalking (Ranger Smith)? Check and mate. If you seen it all before, it’s in Yogi Bear in 3D.

Also, in what has to be one of the most epic examples of paycheck cashing, Dan Aykroyd and Justin Timberlake literally sell their names to do bad imitations of the cartoon co-stars. You can hear Aykroyd’s familiar Canadian accent breakdown constantly through Yogi, who in effect was portrayed by original voicer Daws Butler as Art Carney in “The Honeymooners” (look it up, kids). Timberlake is better, he pretty much nails Boo Boo. But can’t everyone do the voice, especially when suffering a bad cold?

The live actors are also doing some impressive paycheck cashing themselves. Tom Cavanagh, the likable actor from the TV shows, “Ed” and “Eli Stone,” manages to damage his career with a somnambulant Ranger Smith. It’s as if somebody kidnapped him and forced him to play the role, that’s how little effort he’s putting into it. Anna Faris, so memorable doing some good comedy in “The House Bunny” and “Observe and Report,” gets to join the sell-out parade as Rachel, as she is neutered and as bland as milk toast in this one.

Live Actors!: Tom Cavanagh (Ranger Smith) and Anna Faris (Rachel) in ‘Yogi Bear’
Live Actors!: Tom Cavanagh (Ranger Smith) and Anna Faris (Rachel) in ‘Yogi Bear’
Photo credit: © Warner Bros. Pictures

Blame must be metered out to the filmmakers, and of course there is a group of bad screenwriters, whenever there is more than two, watch out! So congrats to Jeffery Ventimilla, Joshua Sternin and Brad Copeland for presenting this script to our culture, and Director Eric Brevig for concluding the dreck with his vision in 3D.

I don’t remember having a feeling for Yogi and Boo Boo as a kid, they just seem part of that vague yet charming Hanna-Barbera world, where movement was as stiff as they could get away with and the backgrounds remained ever the same. This was animation done on the cheap to feed and profit from the beast of children’s television. What is this movie’s excuse? Pretty much the same, easy cash, but there will never be nostalgia for this morbidly bad film.

”Yogi Bear,” in 3D opens everywhere on December 17th. Featuring Dan Aykroyd, Justin Timberlake, Anna Faris, Tom Cavanagh, T.J. Miller, Nathan Corddry. Screenplay by Jeffery Ventimilla, Joshua Sternin and Brad Copeland, directed by Eric Brevig. Rated “PG

HollywoodChicago.com senior staff writer Patrick McDonald

Senior Staff Writer

© 2010 Patrick McDonald, HollywoodChicago.com

Jakob's picture

I don’t know what would

I don’t know what would have saved this film, but I don’t think even Daniel Day Lewis could have pulled it off with that script. I was forced to watch this movie at work, essentially being paid for it, and it still wasn’t worth it. The mayor was the worst! And that singing scene? You just have to cringe. The only good thing is that you have to watch movies like these to really appreciate films like “Up.”

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