There is often a complaint leveled against Hollywood that they have “run out of ideas” and it is because of Hollywood’s lack of ideas that we get a fairly consistent stream of remakes. I don’t think that’s accurate, I prefer to believe that the powers that be realize that by updating classic efforts they can not only gain a new audience but snag the old one as well and not have to spend as much time, energy, and money in the process is what has caused the glut of remakes.
Watching last year’s Yogi Bear big screen adventure though it is easy to understand why those on the other side of the argument feel the way they do. Starring Dan Aykroyd as the voice of Yogi, Justin Timberlake as the voice of Boo Boo, and Tom Cavanagh as Ranger Smith (unlike Yogi and Boo Boo, he’s not CGI), the film is as big a calamity as any of Yogi’s schemes. It is not, in short, smarter than the average film… it’s not even smarter than the average children’s film.
The basic plot revolves around the evil Mayor Brown (Andrew Daly) and his Chief of Staff (Nathan Corddry) trying to sell the logging right to Jellystone Park in order to balance the city’s budget and help convince the populace to make him governor. Don’t bother asking how a local mayor is allowed to close a national park, it’s a question that I am not convinced ever even struck director Eric Brevig (2008’s Journey to the Center of the Earth) or any of the other people involved in the film.
Ranger Smith, of course, has a brilliant scheme to save the park, a scheme actually provided by his love interest for the film, Rachel (Anna Faris), but Yogi ruins it and the park closes… at least temporarily. By the end of the film the good guys win; the bad guys are exposed; and one poor junior ranger (T.J. Miller) learns a really valuable lesson about doing the right thing and paying your dues.
From start to finish, just about every joke, every scheme of Yogi’s, and every slow burn on Ranger Smith’s part is telegraphed. The CGI Yogi and Boo Boo may look good, and Aykroyd and Timberlake may do good approximations of the voices from the cartoons, but that’s about as far as it goes. Even the Road Runner cartoon which preceded the film in theaters and which is on the Blu-ray as a bonus feature fails to offer much fun to those over the age of 12 (roughly).
It would actually be unfair of me to suggest that there is nothing at all redeemable about the film – it unquestionably impresses the youngest members of the audience. My four-and-a-half year old thinks the film is outstandingly fun and wonderful, every time I have seen it with her (twice in the theater and again at home on Blu-ray), I try and look at it through her eyes so that I too may laugh uproariously at Yogi’s shenanigans. I have been unsuccessful in this endeavor, outside of the exceedingly smooth CGI and some of Yogi’s schemes (like a picnic basket catapult), there really is little that an older crowd will enjoy. Perhaps it is just a case of what works as a brief cartoon failing to work as a full-length feature, but I think the problem lies more in the script and execution than the concept.
One of those other “little” things that does work here is the film’s Blu-ray presentation. Excluding some obvious green screen shots during a water rapids sequence, the film really does look astoundingly good on Blu-ray. The black levels are great and the level of detail exceptionally high. You can make out every piece of fur on Yogi and Boo Boo and lots of details on trees, rocks, and shrubs in Jellystone. The colors are rich and vibrant, particularly the greens which are abundant. The 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack is equally good. The same rapids sequence that doesn’t look all that it might, sounds wonderful, featuring plenty of use of the surrounds to really put the audience in the middle of the action. The entire track is also well-mixed so not only will your hear every thud and thump clearly, but you won’t have to adjust the volume for dialogue scenes.
The extras include the aforementioned Road Runner short as well as a digital and DVD copy. There is also a memory game aimed at the younger crowd and a “mash-up” that runs about four minutes and combines footage from Yogi cartoons with scenes from this movie and EPK interviews from his current adventure. The rest of bonus features, which are actually nominally interesting, are all crammed into a single interactive section called “Spending a Day at Jellystone Park” where you can visit (by clicking on them) different areas in the park and then watch a couple of featurettes in each area. The featurettes are all pretty standard behind the scenes items, but still manage to maintain one’s interest level… when the viewer isn’t sick of having to search them out. Placing these featurettes within this single section of the Blu-ray proves exceptionally annoying as the load times to get from one part of the park to the next are overly long when all that you’re treated to in each section are a few brief looks at the making of the movie. And, why exactly the Yogi mash-up and memory challenge weren’t included is exceptionally puzzling as they seem a perfect fit.
I don’t mind saying it again – I do not believe that Hollywood has run out of ideas, I think that once they have a property they believe will be successful they milk it before trying to come up with any new plans. I also think that there’s nothing at all wrong with that basic concept, I just wish that more effort were put into some of these endeavors. For all the clearly expensive and great-looking CGI work done on Yogi Bear, it still has the feel of an exceptionally slapdash effort made with little consideration of what might actually make for an enjoyable experience. I believe that there are certainly good ways to adapt Yogi for the big screen, ways that would make for a really likable film. None of those ways were (successfully) employed here.