New ‘Yogi Bear,’ even in decent 3-D, is a boo-boo
If you’re looking to laugh yourself silly watching a “Yogi Bear’’ cartoon, there are two options. One is the surrealistic 1999 classic “Boo-Boo Runs Wild,’’ by “Ren and Stimpy’’ creator John Kricfalusi, in which Yogi’s little bow-tie-wearing sidekick snaps under pressure and reverts to a feral state. The other is “Boo-Boo Kills Yogi,’’ an extremely unauthorized CGI mash-up of the new Warner Brothers “Yogi Bear’’ and 2007’s “The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford.’’ Both shorts can be found online and are highly recommended.
If you want a “Yogi Bear’’ to make anyone over the age of 5 sit stone-faced and stricken, you also have two choices: The 1961 TV show or the inane new family film derived from it. What, the original isn’t a classic? Nope, it was just popular without being any good. Worse, its success allowed William Hanna and Joseph Barbera to flood the TV schedule with corny, cheaply animated knockoffs for the next three decades. Be as nostalgic as you want, but those cartoons were terrible.
They were product, in other words, and so is the new movie — designed to fill RedBox kiosks and 7-11 stacks, and to keep children dully narcotized while their parents tend to more important matters. A mix of live-action and digital animation, “Yogi Bear’’ is meant to hit the same commercial sweet spot as the recent “Alvin and the Chipmunk’’ movies. Sadly, it’s not even that mediocre. To sucker you into the theater, though, the movie’s in 3-D, and decent 3-D at that. But there the compliments stop.
The live-action actors include Tom Cavanagh (TV’s “Ed’’) as Ranger Smith and the sweetly dim Anna Faris as Rachel, a wildlife filmmaker who turns up at Jellystone hoping to make a documentary about the park’s famous talking bears. Let us have a moment of silence while these two fire their agents.
Dan Aykroyd voices Yogi and Justin Timberlake Boo-Boo, the former doing his very best Art Carney impression, the latter savoring the inspired silliness of his own casting. Picture Timberlake in the booth recording his lines and you have the best joke in the movie.
Everything else is actively painful, a frenetic, unfunny mix of action, romance, dud dialogue, and icky things popping out of the screen. There’s a plot — a meanie politician (Andrew Daly) wants to close down Jellystone and bring in the loggers — but no one appears to notice. The park scenes somehow make New Zealand look unspectacular. And there’s Yogi himself, a painstakingly photorealistic digital bear who walks on two hind legs and has creepy psycho eyes. (And what is it with the collar, anyway?) Paging Werner Herzog — the only way “Yogi Bear’’ would be bearable is if its furry hero went cold turkey on the pic-a-nic baskets and ate the producers.