Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Yogi Bear

Illustration for article titled Yogi Bear

There are two things viewers need to know about Yogi Bear: He’s fixated on stealing “pic-a-nic” baskets from families visiting Jellystone Park, and he’s “smarter than the average bear.” Adapted from the long-lived Hanna-Barbera cartoon—a testament to the vast reservoirs of blood a creative team can draw from a stone—the live-action Yogi Bear wastes no time demonstrating both of those precepts. In the opening scene, Yogi (voiced by Dan Aykroyd, in a credible imitation of a Honeymooners imitator) and his sidekick Boo-Boo (Justin Timberlake) survey just such a pic-a-nic basket from high on a cliff. Brimming with confidence, Yogi delivers his catchphrase, hoists himself onto a zipline, and flies headlong into slapstick calamity. Classic Yogi. With 3-D-enhanced laughs, to boot.

Now what? Five minutes into their feature-length Yogi Bear movie, the filmmakers have more or less run out of material, save for switching up the means by which Yogi swipes baskets, or leaving a few pies to cool on various ledges. So director Eric Brevig (Journey To The Center Of The Earth) and his screenwriting team turn to the oldest stock plot in the book, one involving evil developers, an operational-budget deficit, and a wacky last-minute scheme to raise money and save the park. (See also: Vengeance, Furry.) This means those gentle adversaries, Yogi Bear and Ranger Smith (Tom Cavanagh), have to form an alliance (or at least declare a truce), beat back a land-grabbing politician (Andy Daly), and fill the next 75 minutes with whatever will make Yogi Bear a real movie.

The best that could be said of Yogi Bear is that it doesn’t diminish its source material: There was never much to the character, beyond the agreeable shtick and enough variations on the pic-a-nic basket gag to link segments with Snagglepuss or Huckleberry Hound. But meeting Hanna-Barbera's standards is about as modest as achievements get.