Saturday, February 19, 2011

Film Review with Robert Mann - Yogi Bear

Yogi Bear 3D ***
Yogi Bear 2D **½

It’s the February half term holiday again (has it really been a year already?) and, as usual, Hollywood has a barrage of family films lined up to try and cash in on the inevitable onslaught of families looking for something to do while the kids are off from school. This year’s offerings, however, are somewhat less inspiring than those of recent years, as evidenced by the first of this year’s half term releases, a live action movie based on the classic animated TV series The Yogi Bear Show created by Joseph Barbera and William Hanna which ran from 1961 –
1988. With the original show having been a part of the childhood of many parents – and, dare I say it, grandparents – around today, Warner Bros Pictures are clearly hoping to cash in on the nostalgia factor to rein in the accompanying adults as well as enticing the children themselves, no doubt attempting to score a success in the vein of the insanely popular Alvin and the Chipmunks movies. Such success, however, will – and in the states, where the film will likely end up grossing less than $100 million, less than half of what both Chipmunks movies managed, already has – elude Yogi Bear. Alvin and the Chipmunks utilised the appeal of talking chipmunks combined with popular music to draw in its viewers but, compared to that, Yogi Bear's picnic basket stealing antics are considerably less appealing to viewers, old or young, and really belong to another, shall I say more innocent, age of film entertainment. With the addition of 3D – proper 3D, not post production conversion nonsense – effort clearly has been taken to try and entice the kids who might not be won over by the weak central premise of the film but will this be enough to attract viewers to this decent but unremarkable family movie?

Yogi (voiced by Dan Aykroyd) and Boo Boo (voiced by Justin Timberlake) are not your average bears. Not only does Yogi wear a hat and tie and Boo Boo a bow tie but they both talk and are, as Yogi says, “smarter than the average bear”. Together, they spend their days in the magnificent Jellystone Park embarking on increasingly crazy plans to steal the picnic baskets from unsuspecting visitors to the park, much to the frustration of Ranger Smith (Tom Cavanagh) who does his best to keep the park going despite fewer and fewer people actually visiting. Things are about to change, however, when pretty documentary filmmaker Rachel (Anna Faris) shows up hoping to film a documentary about Yogi and Boo Boo. The Ranger automatically takes a liking to Rachel but is clueless when it comes to talking to girls and soon he is finding himself distracted at a time when the very future of Jellystone Park is in jeopardy. The corrupt Mayor Brown (Andrew Daly) wants to close the park and sell off the land, leaving the bears homeless, the Ranger out of a job and the nearby city without its most wonderful natural resource, and unfortunately he has help from the eager and impatient Ranger Jones (T.J. Miller), Smith’s deputy who wants his job. Together, with the help of Rachel, Ranger Smith sets out to try and save the park but when Yogi’s showmanship nearly ruins everything, he and Boo Boo must put aside their haphazard plans to steal visitors’ lunches to save their home before it is gone for good. Let's hope that, this time, Yogi really is smarter than the average bear!

Let’s be honest, if you’re going to see Yogi Bear, you probably already know exactly what to expect. The film is essentially just a series of sketches linked together by a very thin plot and one that is extremely obvious, entirely predictable and, if you’ve seen last year’s Furry Vengeance or any of countless other similar movies, you will feel like you have seen it all before many times over. The writing is weak and the nostalgia factor is largely missing and at times it seems like a bit too much attention is paid to the human characters over the true stars of the film, the human cast members largely being wasted in non roles that require practically nothing of them in return for their paycheques. Yet, the target audience – kids, obviously – won’t care less about any of this. To them, the story may well seem new and original and they are hardly likely to care about any failings on part of the human actors as it isn’t them they have come to see. While not appearing as much as you might expect considering that they are the true stars, Yogi and Boo Boo are well realised characters, both being perfectly voiced and the effects used to bring them to life being pretty decent, their interactions with the real world environments and their human co-stars being every bit as much so. The humour here is very simplistic and rather old fashioned in its style, so much so that it won’t appeal so much to older children but, while the film isn’t laugh out loud funny, there are certainly enough funny moments to amuse the young ones and not bore the older viewers. In general, the film is pretty good fun for its target audience and, while the 3D doesn’t add a lot to the overall film, there are plenty of pretty cool 3D sequences, this film utilising 3D in a very gimmicky way at times, and also some beautiful sprawling landscape shots, the beautiful wilderness of Jellystone Park is wonderfully captured in the third dimension, so much so that it looks like the park is right before your eyes. So, there you have it, Yogi Bear, a film that is hardly spectacular but that proves perfectly watchable, being entirely harmless and something that the kids will love, which is what really counts with films like this after all. Not only that but it just might impart some good and honest values onto the kids who see it. Yogi’s claim that “it’s got a little of everything: music, stunts, magic...” might be a bit of a stretch but there are far worse films to take your kids to over this half term holiday.

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Review by Robert Mann BA (Hons)

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