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Yogi Bear 80 Mins Cert U Out on February 11th, 2011.

The much loved Hanna-Barbera cartoon Yogi Bear, which began in the late 1950’s, has been given a big budget 2011 3-D computer animation/live action make over with decidedly mixed results. Big star names Dan Aykroyd and Justin Timberlake have been drafted in to voice the accident prone, picnic basket stealing, hat and tie sporting bear Yogi and his faithful, level headed little bear friend Boo Boo, but despite the sophistication of the 3-D visuals the magic of the late William Hanna and Joseph Barbera series is largely absent.

The original Yogi Bear (voiced by the late, great Daws Butler) was something of a rebel, a semi-beatnik character. The indolent, overweight Yogi, aided and abetted by Boo Boo, would spend most of his days trying to steal the bounteous lunch hampers belonging to loud shirted, big mouthed, fat day-trippers to Jellystone National Park. Their adversary was Ranger Smith (played by Don Messick, who also voiced Boo Boo), an ex-US army, Ike Eisenhower style, stony figure, dedicated to stamping out Yogi’s Robin Hood style picnic basket theft and lethargic ways. Ranger Smith, though he begrudgingly respected Yogi, and would regularly help him out if major trouble ensued, normally just wanted to pack him off to St. Louis Zoo so he could enjoy a quite life. Invariably, no matter what ludicrous situation Yogi would land himself and Boo Boo in, the well-meaning bear would habitually triumph because, as he would never cease to declare, “I’m smarter than the average bear!”

Director Eric ”ËœJourney to the Centre of the Earth 3D’ Brevig’s Yogi Bear in 3D, the second feature length Yogi picture (a full length animated movie, Hey There, It’s Yogi Bear!, was released in 1964 after the first cartoon series ended), commendably retains the timeless quality of the original cartoon series, despite the inclusion of some execrable contemporary songs. Unfortunately, a highly unimaginative script by Jeffrey Ventimilia, Joshua Sternin and Brad Copeland lumbers Yogi Bear in 3D. That it took three people to write a children’s film really speaks volumes.

Obama’s weak, bland America and the repercussions of the ”Ëœcredit crunch’ now loom large over Jellystone Park (shot in New Zealand) and its inhabitants. In an inept attempt to cover his complete mismanagement of city funds, Mayor Brown (Andrew Daly), aided by his Chief of Staff (Nate Corddry) intends to sell off the loss making park to a logging company. Nice guy Ranger Smith (Tom Cavanagh), visiting nature documentary filmmaker/love interest Rachel Johnson (Anna Faris), dim-witted and shifty Ranger Jones (T.J. Miller), Yogi and Boo Boo only have a week to turn around the financial fortunes of Jellystone with a hundredth anniversary bash for the park. What could possibly go wrong?
Rather than occupying centre stage, Yogi and Boo Boo (both Aykroyd and Timberlake are fine as the bears) get sidelined in their own movie. The New Age Ranger Smith is now the focus and his inept attempts to woo Faris take up far too much screen time. Faris is a very able comedienne, but she is wasted in this, with far too little to do. The relationship between the former antagonists, Yogi and Ranger Smith, is now much too convivial, unbalancing the original dynamic of the series, as the new corporate villains are far too ineffectual as unfettered capitalist eco-system destroyers. Don’t just take my word for it; during the passages when the ”Ëœhuman’ characters dominated the movie, many of the youngsters, and their parents for that matter, were audibly getting bored.

The spirit of playful anarchy, so much apart of the original cartoon, is missing from Yogi Bear in 3D, despite the fact that the occupants of city hall are the enemy. Fortunately, mayhem is not a quality lacking in a brand new 3D Looney Tunes cartoon short that precedes Yogi Bear in 3D. Entitled Rabid Rider, directed by Matthew O’Callaghan and featuring the infamous cartoon characters Wile E. Coyote and Road Runner, this 3D three minute picture packs more punch, action and laughs in its running time than Yogi does in 80 minutes. Perhaps the more brutally surreal contest of life and death between the Road Runner and Wile E. Coyote in a bleak desert, brilliantly recaptured from the original cartoon developed by Chuck Jones in the late 1940’s, is more suited to the new ultra vivid 3D media.

One of the most heinous sins Yogi Bear in 3D commits is not using the original, immortal, jaunty Yogi Bear theme song, the lyrics of which sum up the appeal of the show for children of all ages: “Yogi Bear is smarter than the average bear, Yogi Bear is always in the Ranger’s hair. At a picnic table you will find him there. Stuffing down more goodies than the average bear. He will sleep till noon but before it’s dark, He’ll have every picnic basket that’s in Jellystone Park. Yogi has it better than a millionaire. That’s because he’s smarter than the average bear.”
Why no deranged punk band ever covered this rebellious anthem is a mystery.

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