A combination of Borscht Belt comedian and Hanna-Barbera animation, Yogi Bear was a clever enough creation that more than 50 years later, we still can't help but impersonate his "pic-a-nic" basket and "Ay, Boo Boo!"
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Inspired by Art Carney's Ed Norton from "The Honeymooners" and originally voiced by Daws Butler, Yogi Bear has always had an intelligence that surpasses that of your typical clawed mammalia.
He has finally gotten his own movie — in 3-D, no less — and so it comes with little surprise but still some disappointment that "Yogi Bear" is a bland pic-a-nic, indeed.
There he is, in trademark green tie and white collar and voiced by Dan Aykroyd, with the bow-tied Boo Boo (Justin Timberlake) at his side. Of course, this being the highly advanced 21st century, simple animation won't do, so we must suffer through mediocre, lifeless computer-generated animation of this treasured twosome.Story: Grownups need to get over dread of big-screen 'Yogi Bear'
They're in an otherwise mostly live-action film with the typically charming, motor-mouthed Tom Cavanagh ("Ed") as Park Ranger Smith and Anna Farris as Rachel Johnson, a documentary filmmaker visiting Jellystone Park, most likely trying to beat Ken Burns to the punch.
Arriving at the forest, Rachel says she's interested in filming the famous Yogi, who's "very rare," she notes, being a talking bear. Smith, of course, is abundantly familiar with Yogi, who has long terrorized his park visitors with his picnic basket stealing ways. They hold "dreams," Yogi rhapsodizes.
For his part, Yogi — the Rodney Dangerfield of cartoon characters — sees himself as the main attraction, claiming that the honor of having your lunch stolen by him is like catching a foul ball at a ball game. "Make me a headliner," he argues.
Jellystone needs visitors, though, because Mayor Brown (the funny Andrew Daly of "Eastbound & Down") and his yes-man chief-of-staff (Nate Corddry), having sold-off the town's other resources, want to open up the park to logging. Interested only in the next election and shortsighted quick-fixes to the budget, Daly and Corddry make for a surprisingly good and relevant political parody.
Yogi and company fight to save the park and the whole ordeal is over in little more than an hour and a quarter. "Yogi Bear," directed by effects veteran Eric Brevig ("Journey to the Center of the Earth 3D") is blessedly brief. Its best quality is that it moves along briskly, as if it knows — and accepts — just how thin its plot is.
But more should be expected. Aykroyd and Timberlake supply good voice work, and the supporting players are well cast. But Yogi, above all, deserves better jokes and more wildness in which to roam free. Can't a bear get some lunch around here?
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