The good thing about reading bad reviews of a movie you’re about to watch is that it lowers your expectations enough to be pleasantly surprised by how NOT bad the movie was. That was the case with Yogi Bear, which I recently, albeit reluctantly, watched with my eight year old son. While it won’t win any Oscars, it wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be.
Before going any further, though, some disclaimers are in order. First, I have been spoiled by Pixar, which, borrowing from its Google friends south of the Bay, can do no wrong. So, it would be unfair to compare Yogi Bear to any Pixar movie, one of which HAS been nominated for an Oscar. Second, I did not watch the movie in 3-D. (Although I’m not sure that would have made it any better. The 3-D images seemed superfluous. Then again, when a movie’s main character is a talking bear, what about that movie isn’t superfluous?) Third and last, as I mentioned earlier, I lowered my expectations going into the movie, so I am grading it on a very low curve here.
Now that I’ve dispensed with the disclaimers, I can talk about the movie itself.
But before I do that, I should mention that the movie, stealing a page from Pixar, started off with a funny and nostalgic Road Runner/Wile E Coyote short. That was a nice treat. I took me back to my childhood days of watching poor old Wile E chasing Road Runner. (I still feel sorry for him and hate the Road Runner. And I have always wondered why he’s chasing the Road Runner anyway? What’s so special about the Road Runner? S/he is such an annoying tease, like girls I that wouldn’t give me the time of day in high school and college. But I digress.) The short was classic Loony Tunes that stayed true to the original formula with only a modern technology twist. Watching Yogi Bear was worth catching that short.
Okay, like for real now, time to talk about the movie itself.
Here’s my quick synopsis without a spoiler: Yogi (voiced by Dan Aykroyd) causes mayhem stealing picnic baskets in Jellystone National Park while his close friend, Boo-boo (voiced by Justin Timberlake), tries to help him and keep him out of trouble with the not-so-goofy goofy Head Ranger Smith (played by Tom Cavanagh). The plot of the movie kicks in when the mayor (played by Andrew Daly) attempts to sell off the park to loggers in order to dig his city out of a budget deficit, give voters money from the subsequent budget surplus, (Hmmmm…stimulus package reference, anyone?), and thus position himself to win his run for state governor. Along the way, Ranger Smith falls for the goofy Rachel (played by the awesome and really goofy Anna Faris), an extreme nature film-maker who shoots a documentary about Yogi and ends up helping Ranger Smith and Yogi save the park.
So the eco-friendly plot was cool, and very fitting for a story set in a national park. I appreciated my son getting that moral. (Or did he?) And although trite, the plot was believable enough, especially in this era of perennial fiscal crisis when every government is looking everywhere for revenue.
As for funny, I found myself laughing against my will, perhaps not as much as my son, who laughed at will. Aykroyd may not be funny as he used to be and Timberlake and Cavanagh were bland as cold tofu, but Faris was very, very funny because she is always, always funny.
(Remember her in all those “Scary Movie” movies?) The human side of the script was hella funny and clearly directed towards an adult sensibility, and Daly as the mayor was by far the funniest part of the movie. His blatant portrayal of a blatant politician was frighteningly accurate, akin to Robert Redford in “The Candidate” or Warren Beatty in “Bulworth”, and his Chief of Staff (played by Nate Corddry) filled the sycophant role all too well.
But, most important of all, my son thoroughly enjoyed himself. And that made it worth forking out my money, spending my time, and lowering my film standards.
I give it 3 out of 5 picnic baskets.