It’s coming. As a parent you already may be dreading it. Maybe last year you won the coin toss and dodged chaperoning duties for “Alvin and The Chipmunks 2: The Squeakquel.” But it's payback time. You have to bite the bullet and bring your demanding offspring to the one children’s film opening in theaters for Christmas: “Yogi Bear.”
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There is no 2010 film release that’s received as much negative internet attention. Adults who loved the hat-wearing, mildly sociopathic, obsessive-compulsive, food-hoarding bear from the cheaply produced cartoons of their youth don’t want to see a 3-D digital version with Dan Aykroyd’s voice and they’ve made their indignant protests heard on blogs and via Facebook mockery of the film’s marketing campaign. It’s angry out there.Story: Aykroyd is smarter than average bear as Yogi
But really, why? What makes this excursion into crass moneymaking any different or any worse than the films made starring The Chipmunks or Garfield or Scooby-Doo or George of the Jungle or the Transformers, hours and hours of idiotic time-suck we’ve already been force-fed over the past several years? Nothing at all. Where was the outrage over “Marmaduke?” But if we’re talking about artistic merit, all of these movie products weigh the same. So when the bloggers cry, “MAKE IT STOP!” they’re sort of missing the point.
Because you can’t make it stop.Story: 'Yogi Bear' is a light, bland pic-a-nic
It’s like asking Hostess to stop making Twinkies. We live in a world where someone decided that Yogi Bear needed a makeover and an introduction to the child consumers of 2010. It’s going to be there and you will have to make decisions about it. You have to take control. Here’s how:
Step 1: Relax, a single movie never ruined anyone
You know that Yogi Bear is a one-joke concept. You know that his thing is simply to run around stealing pic-a-nic baskets. You know that 90 minutes of that is going to feel like torture to any grownup, especially when the movie gets to his “back story.” You don’t want to know his back story. But you will almost certainly be subjected to it before it’s over. You know that if they made a movie about the Roadrunner and Wile E. Coyote, they’d wind up with back story too.
But your children don’t see it that way. They won’t care about liberties taken or memories stained. They will care about funny cartoon animals and hapless live-action humans and mayhem and food fights and Yogi getting his butt repeatedly paddled. This combination of goofy stuff is the definition of Kid Heaven. They’ll see it, squeal with laughter like it’s the funniest thing they’ve ever seen — and it might just be — and then they’ll forget it. Or they’ll become obsessed with it (more on that in a minute).Video: 'Yogi Bear' (on this page)
Step 2: Follow bad medicine with good
Get a DVD of old Yogi Bear cartoons or record the reruns from the Boomerang channel. Flood them with six-minute concentrated bursts of the original until they forget the extended, fidget-producing reboot. Those old cartoons aren’t art either, but they have a focus and a punch that no feature-length film can approximate. Even the dumbest of the vintage shorts featuring Peter Potamus, Magilla Gorilla, Huckleberry Hound, Wally Gator or Top Cat have a dumb, joyful energy that kids will respond to. Better yet? “Fractured Fairy Tales” or any old Bugs Bunny cartoon. Get on the hunt for those. They’re still hilarious and smart.
Step 3: Teachable moments
No need to launch into a diatribe about how there’s no such thing as an adorable bear cub in a bow tie who wants to be your friend, and that this particular breed of animal just wants to bite your face off. You can turn on Animal Planet for that. But what you can do is gently point out how suddenly there are dozens of Yogi Bear-themed products lining the shelves at stores. And that the reason why that’s happening is because movie studios want to enslave children into buying things they don’t need through the synergistic appearance of pajamas, stickers, snacks and, ultimately, DVDs through a nonstop advertising campaign.
Obviously with a screaming child on your hands, one who’s immune to his or her first lesson in smart shopping and who doesn’t know what “synergy” is anyway, you might wind up buying that hypothetical box of Fruit Roll-Ups with Yogi’s face on it. But in the long run, wouldn’t be fun to teach your preschooler to repeat stuff like, “Multinational corporations are not the boss of me!”? You know it would. Teaching a child to resist the pressures to thoughtlessly buy everything put in front of them is a great accomplishment. And if it takes the “Yogi Bear” movie to inadvertently set that pattern in motion, then fine.
Step 4: If all else fails, let them get obsessed
A child with an intense curiosity about a specific something is exactly the kind of kid you hope you’ll get. That kind of little person grows into an interesting bigger person. You can throw books at a child like that and they’ll read them. You can present them with higher quality, thematically similar movies and they’ll watch them (Perfect examples: director Jean-Jacques Annaud’s stunning live-action film “The Bear” or Carole Ballard’s equally amazing “Black Stallion” and “Fly Away Home.”)
You’re more in charge of your child’s cultural education than you know, and they need you to push better stuff on them. If you don’t, no one else will do it for you. Check out the books “The Rough Guide to Kids’ Movies” or “Jeffrey Lyons’ 101 Great Movies for Kids” if you need help. But you have to be willing to do a little extra legwork these days to help your small person sift through the smelly pile of junky pop culture so that they don’t grow up with Funyuns for brains.
Now, get ready for next year’s “Smurfs” movie. And “Alvin and the Chipmunks 3-D.”
Dave White is a film critic for Movies.com
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