Film Review: 'Yogi Bear' dumber than 'Av-e-Rage'

The new 'Yogi Bear' features animated characters Boo Boo (center, voiced by Justin Timberlake) and Yogi (voiced by Dan Aykroyd) next to live actors like Tom Cavanagh (left).

Warner Bros. Pictures

The new "Yogi Bear" features animated characters Boo Boo (center, voiced by Justin Timberlake) and Yogi (voiced by Dan Aykroyd) next to live actors like Tom Cavanagh (left).

According to Beifuss family lore, the first movie I ever saw in a theater was the cartoon feature "Hey There, It's Yogi Bear" in 1964.

I was a preschooler, and I have no memory of this significant occasion. I can only hope one day I also will be stricken with amnesia regarding the new "Yogi Bear" in 3D.

Jellystone Park has been losing business, so greedy Mayor Brown decides to shut it down and sell the land. That means families will no longer ...

Rating: PG

Length: 82 minutes

Released: December 17, 2010 Nationwide

Cast: Anna Faris, Justin Timberlake, Dan Aykroyd, T.J. Miller, Nathan Corddry

Director: Eric Brevig

Writer: Brad Copeland, Joshua Sternin

More info and showtimes »

Directed by Eric Brevig (who helmed the recent 3D remake of "Journey to the Center of the Earth"), "Yogi Bear" benefits from fine digital effects (in the tradition of the "Alvin and the Chipmunks" movies, Yogi and his sidekick, Boo Boo, are computer-animated characters in

a live-action world) and the amusing voice characterizations of Dan Aykroyd as Yogi and Justin Timberlake as the nasally Boo Boo. (As "Saturday Night Live" viewers can attest, the pop star is a fine comic actor.)

After acknowledging those factors, the best that can be said about "Yogi Bear" is that it's a "cute" and "harmless" kids' movie, as long as you ignore the moment when Yogi tells the lovestruck Mr. Ranger (Tom Cavanagh) that the best way to woo a mate is to urinate on her.

One of the more popular Hanna-Barbera cartoon characters of the early 1960s, the necktie-wearing Yogi was — to quote his famous catch-phrase — "smarter than the av-e-rage bear" as he sought to steal the "pic-a-nic" baskets of visitors to his habitat in Jellystone Park. The new "Yogi Bear," however, is not so much dumber than the av-e-rage movie as lazier. It seems to have been conceived and scripted over a short weekend after a screening of "Furry Vengeance."

The plot is perhaps the most hackneyed in modern moviedom, as a developer/ politician/bureaucrat threatens to raze a park/school/home for personal gain. In this case, a vain and greedy mayor (Andrew Daly) wants to rezone Jellystone so he can sell off its timber to a logging company. But he didn't count on Yogi!

Yes, this is "just" a kids' movie about a talking bear, but even in this context, "Yogi Bear" makes absolutely no sense. Despite its immense mountain ranges, whitewater river, colossal waterfall and vast forests, Jellystone is described as a city park, under the control of a mayor — apparently unanswerable to anyone else — who thinks that destroying this resource will propel him to the governorship.

The filmmakers might argue that the nonsense of these details doesn't matter because "Yogi Bear" doesn't take place in the "real" world — but then suddenly it does, when that world is needed for a plot twist involving the Endangered Species Act.

The movie's illogic is its only surprise. Everything else hums along as predictably as the movements of a clock's hand. The inevitable fart joke takes only 10 minutes to arrive; at 20 minutes, Yogi shakes his rump to "Baby Got Back." The "2001: A Space Odyssey" reference occurs 25 minutes into the film, and the obligatory use of Journey's "Don't Stop Believin'" is heard at the hour mark. The good news is there's not much more to go: Minus its end credits, "Yogi Bear" barely — pun intended — reaches 70 minutes.

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