Online reviews of Yogi Bear (new on Blue-ray and DVD from Warner Bros.) are apt to tell you it’s the worst film of the past year, or at least one of the worst. Of course, some of these same reviewers adored painful and banal “artistic” films such as Cyrus. So go figure. Or better yet, decide for yourself based on your own criteria.
If those criteria include the fact that you tolerated — if not secretly enjoyed — Brendan Fraser’s Furry Vengeance, then have I got a pic — as in picture, not pic-a-nic — for you. Yogi Bear is another such outdoorsy comedy of misery, with the 1961 vintage Hanna-Barbera cartoon bear and puny pal Boo Boo foraging for feasts among visitors to financially troubled Jellystone Park, while poor Ranger Smith (Tom Cavanagh) tries to make the trains run on time.
A standard save-the-farm (or park) plot involves a corrupt mayor played with amusingly zealous avarice by Andrew Daly (try telling me this show-stealer is not entertaining) and a budding romance between Smith and pretty documentarian Rachel (Anna Farris). They interact reasonably well with the havoc-causing, computer-animated Yogi and Boo Boo, the only talking animals in the park, which seems to be normal in this fantasy world. (For a park that’s struggling, wouldn’t a talking bear be a big tourist draw in itself?)
Cavanagh is quite likable and charming in his put-upon, plucky, beleaguered way, and he has more screen time than anyone. Yet he’s fourth-billed behind Dan Aykroyd as Yogi’s voice, Justin Timberlake as Boo Boo’s and Scary Movie refugee Farris. That’s Hollywood.
Sure, this slim, slight, slapsticky comedy will bore some adults who can’t bear to watch. But as Rocky Horror’s Dr. Frank N. Furter might say (how’s that for an adult reference), they didn’t make this for you. They made it for kids — and forgiving Baby Boomers who recall Yogi’s TV antics from the good old days.
No, Yogi Bear isn’t great. But cranky critics are wrong, because neither is it reprehensibly bad for this sort of thing, that being innocent, light-hearted children’s entertainment.
So lighten up, people. This may not be better than your average film, but for what it sets out to do, it gamely gets the job done.