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Yogi Bear

by on December 16, 2010
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I’m all for dopey flicks designed to keep small children entertained, or at least distracted, for a while. I’ve got a rugrat myself now, so I’m sure I’ll soon be making the acquaintance of SpongeBob, Barney and Elmo.

But does programming for kids — I won’t deign to call it filmmaking — have to be as aggressively bad as “Yogi Bear”?

Straight from the lame school of “Garfield” and “Alvin and the Chipmunks,” “Yogi” stars live humans interacting with computer-generated versions of cartoon characters. The effect is not convincing, nor is it expected to be. Every minute Yogi and his vertically challenged sidekick Boo Boo are onscreen, they’re calling attention to the fact that they’re not really there.

Dan Aykroyd does a reasonable facsimile of Yogi’s voice, which was originally done by Daws Butler, who was himself doing a knockoff of Art Carney’s character from “The Honeymooners.” Justin Timberlake provides the voice of Boo Boo and instantly wipes out all the good feelings I had about his burgeoning acting career after “The Social Network.”

If you remember, Yogi is “smarter than the average bear,” and traipses around Jellystone Park with Boo Boo scheming up ways to steal food from visiting humans. Yogi has a major craving for, as it comes out in his rollicking speech, “pick-a-nick baskets.”

Tom Cavanagh plays Head Ranger Smith, who inherited his post from his father and has spent his whole life learning the ins and outs of Jellystone. Alas, attendance has been dropping for years, and his only companionship is dimwitted Ranger Jones (T.J. Miller), who’s a rookie but already has eyes on the top job.

Things get shaken up with the arrival of Rachel (Anna Faris), or, as Yogi dubs her, “movie-maker lady.” She wants to film a documentary about Jellystone’s famous talking bear, though I don’t know how famous he can be if nobody comes to the park to see him.

Needless to say, Ranger Smith and Rachel are soon making moony eyes at each other.

Facing a shortfall, the evil mayor (Andrew Daly) wants to close down Jellystone and auction off its prime acres to the timber company. So it’s up to Yogi, Rachel, Smith and Boo Boo to come up with the cash.

Now think about that last paragraph. The mayor of a city is going to shut down a massive park encompassing thousands of acres? What kind of park like that is inside municipal limits? And even if it were, Jellystone (a parody of Yellowstone) is clearly a national park under federal jurisdiction.

This movie is dumb, dumb, dumb. At 80 minutes long, it felt like eternity sitting through it. My advice: Run. Run now. If your kids really want to see Yogi Bear, show them some of the Hanna-Barbera cartoons.

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