For Dan Aykroyd to be the worst part of any movie, the rest of the film must be pretty good. It would be easy for someone to think that. Unfortunately though adding Aykroyd to any menu should yield fulfillment, Yogi Bear is no picnic.
The new Yogi adventure from Warner Brothers, which hit store shelves on March 22nd in a Blu-ray/DVD combo pack, actually does generate some laughs, but it is simply lacking too many key components to be a success. One key element to a movie with the title Yogi Bear, would be Yogi! Unfortunately we get far too little of Yogi, and what we do get is voiced by legendary comedic actor Dan Aykroyd who simply tries too hard to capture the Yogi of old and fails throughout with a performance that is strained and forced.
Since all the life has been sucked out of the Ranger Smith character (Tom Cavanagh) for whatever reason, there is little energy to be had at Jellystone during this 80-minute tour. Justin Timberlake does a nice job with the subdued Boo Boo, but since Boo Boo is normally just the comedic voice of reason as Yogi and the Ranger trade protagonist and antagonist roles for our enjoyment, there is little for him to do. Even worse off are Anna Faris as Rachel, the love interest for Ranger Smith, and T. J. Miller as the inept ladder-climbing Ranger Jones. Both are in the film to apparently breathe some life into it, but end up chewing scenery throughout.
The story by Jeffrey Ventimilia, Joshua Sternin, and Brad Copeland, where the scheming mayor (a fun but muddily motivated Andrew Daly) wants to rezone the land that Jellystone is on to allow for widespread logging and subsequently balance the budget, is reasonably enjoyable, but when you change the character traits of the constantly aggravated Ranger Smith and handcuff Yogi to make the story work, the audience is drenched by the babyless bathwater.
The film looks and sounds good on DVD, though there are shots meant to be appreciated in 3D that just look like most of the characters in Yogi Bear: obvious and awkward. The bonus material is all on the Blu-ray disc, so if you get the Blu-ray + DVD combo pack, you’re up a creek without the right equipment. Those extras include “Spending a Day at Jellystone Park,” an interactive feature that allows the user to visit different section of Jellystone Park where nine featurettes are hidden; the interactive memory card game “Are you Smarter Than the Average Bear”; and the Road Runner/Wile E. Coyote short “Looney Tunes: Rabid Rider”.
Recommendation: Yogi Bear is not a bad film. The very young will probably enjoy it and it does have a nice message about persistence. It simply lacks the energy normally found in the dynamic between Yogi and the Ranger. It’ll be on television soon enough. Stick the kids in front of the television and hit “play” on some of the classic Hanna Barbara Yogi Bear cartoons. They’ll be much happier in the long run and never know the difference.