The shrewd picnic basket-stealing “Yogi Bear” often likes to say that he’s smarter than the average bear. With his sly plans, goofy wit and ability to speak fluent English, he is undoubtedly more intelligent than the typical forest animal. Unfortunately, the new movie “Yogi Bear” doesn’t measure up to his intellect and is just another bland family-friendly film that features potty jokes and a few funny lines.
The story begins with Yogi Bear (voiced by Dan Akroyd) planning to steal a picnic basket from an unassuming family. His sidekick Boo Boo (voiced by Justin Timberlake) stands at his side watching the master at work. Yogi’s basket-stealing ploy doesn’t work as well as Yogi planned but this gives the filmmakers the opportunity to show off the film’s 3D effects.
When the food ends up flying into the air, audiences see the snacks and drinks up close and in slow motion — and in 3D. It’s a fun scene to watch and one of the best aspects of the film is actually its use of 3D graphics. Instead of simply showing objects flying towards the audience, “Yogi Bear” appreciates the technology and shows how neat it can be, especially for young people.
As the story continues, a documentarian named Rachel (Anna Faris) visits Jellystone Park, the home of Yogi Bear. With support from Park Ranger Smith (Tom Cavanagh), Rachel films the adventures of Yogi and Boo Boo. However, a corrupt politician soon arrives to cause trouble.
Mayor Brown (Andrew Daly) arrives at Jellystone with the intention of shutting it down. The park is losing money and Brown wants to sell it and use the proceeds to give money back to the city’s residents. He assumes that such a plan will help him in his campaign for governor and his chief of staff (Nathan Corddry) stands by his side willing to help. To save the park, Yogi Bear must team up with Rachel and Ranger Smith.
Like much of “Yogi Bear,” the characters leave a lot to be desired. The villain is a one-note politician and both Ranger Smith and Rachel are bland characters. The best two characters are clearly Yogi and Boo Boo but neither of them gets a lot to do in this lame story. However, Aykroyd does a great job as the charismatic but often clueless Yogi and Timberlake, whose voice is barely recognizable, does an admirable job as his sidekick.
“Yogi Bear” uses some gross-out or potty humor that could have easily been excised from this, a kid’s film. Although the potty humor is kept at a minimum, I’m not sure why a story about a talking bear requires jokes about urination. A smarter comedy would have survived without them.
However, this isn’t a smart movie to begin with. The plot is lackluster and the romance between Ranger Smith and Rachel is absolutely ridiculous. A few scenes after they meet each other, the couple are “in love” after one date. Lastly, a plot line about an endangered species in Jellystone Park is silly considering that the park already contains two talking bears. I’m not sure how many parks in the film’s world contain such an attraction but it seems that a park that did would be protected from a mayor’s greed.
“Yogi Bear” has a likable quality to it and Aykroyd was well-cast. However, its insipid plot and lackluster romance detract from the two best characters in the story. If parents are looking for a bland but innocuous film to show their kids, “Yogi Bear” might be an okay choice but plenty of family-friendly films are out there (“Tangled,” “The Voyage of the Dawn Treader”) that are far superior.