Friday, 17 December 2010

Can’t “Bear” to Watch It

Okay, I figure I’d get my “bear” pun out of the way early. Because you know just about every critic reviewing the new Yogi Bear movie will feel obliged to get one in. And all of them will think they’re being original.

There are readers here, I’m sure, who expect the pre-eminent only blogger that focuses on early Hanna-Barbera characters like Yogi Bear to come up with a witty, catty review of the aforementioned feature film. You’re in for a disappointment. I can’t—get ready to chuckle now—“bear” to watch it. Yes, I’m among the legions of old cartoon fans who have already concluded it’s either a waste of my valuable time at best, or a steaming dump on our childhood memories at worst. We all know why.

Yogi Bear is Rodney Dangerfield. Dan Aykroyd’s Yogi is so far off, he would have been closer to Daws Butler if he had done the voice of one of the Coneheads.
Amusement Park Bear Suits. They didn’t really use expensive computer animation, did they? Those are really a couple of guys in costumes. With marbles for eyes. Right?
Don’t Pander to Me, Bro! The stars say they used to watch Yogi as a kid and loved him. The director says the same thing. Then how come they can’t give us that Yogi Bear? Simple, they’re saying all this to get nostalgic old cartoon fans into movie house seats to add to the box office take. They know non-diehard H-B fans—newish moms, specifically—don’t know how far off it is and don’t really care anyway. The producers are banking they’ll kind of remember Yogi’s name, link it to childhood and take their kids.
Run That Plot By Me Again. How can a mayor shut down a national park? And why don’t any humans think it’s odd they’re talking to someone in a bear costume doing an impression of Rodney Dangerfield?

So instead of getting a review from a highly-remunerated blogger such as myself, let me instead link you to a few critiques already on the web. Click on the author’s name for the full review. These were chosen entirely at random (honest!).

No Smarter Than the Average Sack of Doorknobs – Eric D. Snider, Moviefone. (He doesn’t like the old cartoons much, either).

This mostly live-action film is a bland 21st-century family comedy without a single moment that captures the wit, energy or sophistication of the original. – Mike Hale, New York Times.

The story about Yogi's fall from grace, Ranger Smith's self-loathing issues and the fight to save the park from rank commercialism comes to criminally little. – Michael Phillips, Los Angeles Times.

Yogi Bear is a big boo-boo. Or at least he needs to go back into hibernation. – Claudia Puig, USA Today.

Want a great gift idea for the kids? Here’s a surefire hit: Don’t take them to “Yogi Bear.” – Jason Heck, Kansas City Star.

A frenetic, unfunny mix of action, romance, dud dialogue, and icky things popping out of the screen. – Ty Burr, Boston Globe.

No animal was harmed in the making of this picture except the one Hanna-Barbera made a bundle on almost 50 years ago. – Roger Moore, Orlando Sentinel.

“Yowp, you’re being unfair,” I hear you saying. “What about the favourable reviews? There must be one.” Well, actually, there is:

A charming mix of live action and computer-generated animation, the new and improved Yogi comes across like an obliging Walter Matthau covered in fur. – John Lekich, Georgia Straight.

Let me point out something. The Straight was, when it started in the 1960s, Vancouver’s anti-establishment protest voice in print. We can only presume pungent, skunky clouds from a hand-rolled, burning, home-grown leaf, the lingering remnants of the tie-dyed, Get-Out-of-Vietnam, Stanley Park Be-In days, are still wafting through the paper’s offices and influenced the writer’s review.

If any readers actually managed to brave a screening of the movie, please post your thoughts in the comments.

Instead of a review, let me give you a prediction. Yogi will be left behind by Tron in their opening weekend, receipts will drop during the second weekend and the Jellystone misadventure will vanish after New Year’s Day. That will make room for a real Yogi Bear—the one who celebrates the 50th anniversary of his own show at the end of next month. That’s something any Hanna-Barbera fan can certainly, um, well, you know the word.


  1. Are you still holding to that January 30 date for the premiere of Yogi Bear, or do you know something I don't (which is highly likely)?

  2. Well said, Yowp! My feelings exactly!

    I used to think Greg Burson was horrible as Yogi, until I heard Danny A.!

    Oddly, Daws Butler has turned out to be more irreplaceable than even Mel Blanc!

  3. Odds are Yogi's on pay-per-view by March at the latest, and probably showing up on HBO by June, to little or no fanfare (not that anyone should or will watch it there, either).

  4. Yogi debuted on (among other stations) on KTVU in Oakland on that date, David. His show wasn't broadcast any earlier. Other stations followed later that week. One of them broadcast "Home Sweet Jellystone" but the other cartoons aren't listed.
    Just as a side note, a Bay-area newspaper for that date announced the debut of Clutch Cargo would be Feb. 13th.

  5. You're absolutley right Yowp, a Mayor shutting down a National park is hardly a concivncing premise; for me, let alone many others. I'm ashamed and a bit surprised this comes from Josh Sternin and Jeff Ventimilla, who wrote that great episode of The Simpsons where Homer joins the Naval reserve. Then again, that was from the mid-1990s, and many things change over the years. I guess how funny comedy writers really are is one of them. We ought to know by now, it happened to Michael Maltese.

  6. Well, Yowp, I thought the Yogi Bear movie would premiere on the traditional post Christmas debut (26th December), but it seems it won't appear here in Australia until January 13.

    Another CG adaptation of a cartoon I certainly will be avoiding

  7. Hey, Yowp, This will come as a Shock to You, But I Just Came From Watching this Movie from The Theater and i Must Say, IMO, It Wasn't Bad At All, I Thought It Was OK. I Thought Dan Acyoryd's Yogi Impersonation was Actually Pretty Good, and Shockingly Justin Timberlake's Boo Boo voice was Actually Very Close to Don Messick's Preformace.

    However I Do Have a Few Gripes...

    1. Yogi and Boo Boo Look AWEFUL!!!!!

    2. On The Ranger Khaki Uniforms, The Hat and Pants of Both Ranger Jones and Smith are this Ugly Olive Green Color and Therefore Do NOT match the Beautiful Khaki Colors (specifically the Safari desert brush colors used for Steve Irwin's clothes and the Navy uniforms) of their Shirts, Both the Pants and Hat should be of the exact same color as their shirt, but that's just me, Im Crazy for Khaki Uniforms and Go Ga-Ga When the Pants and The Hat and even buttons and socks match and blend with the shirt, i can't stand mismatched colors on khaki.

    3. The Acting (both voice and looks) on the other characters is very amateurish and bland. now i can see what john k. meant.

    4. Making this in Live action with those ugly photo realistic Yogi/Boo Boo bear models was A Very Stupid Idea!!!!!, Why Couldn't they Get John K.( Since he is the Ultimate H-B fan) or Somebody like him and a Good animation crew to do this Yogi Bear Movie, that would've Made the film i just watched more rewarding.

    5. The Story Stinks!!!!!, Couldn't they get better writers.

    But i Think the Moments with Yogi Bear were pretty funny and the Ending Graphics were pretty decent. 5/10


  8. There are countless bad movies with strong trailers, but Yogi's trailer is mediocre. The magnet pull and subsequent tumble offer no surprises or laughs. Tom Cavanagh doesn't project enough authority to be a proper Ranger Smith.

    No sale.

  9. Now leave us talk of more pleasanter things.

  10. In any event, I think you overestimate the consumer power of the classic-cartoon-fan demographic. I doubt it would total the cost of catering.

  11. Anyway, Yowp, I remember sumthin' else I wanted to pass along to you... I wuz listenin' to Phil Shaap on Columbia's WKCR th' other day when he began to make a musical comparison and analysis of the counter-melody chord progression in Gershwin's "I Got Rythm" and the theme from "Meet the Flintstones" -matching in form and harmony, however differing in melody. I enjoy the strong auditory/musical element of your blog. Maybe it's worth a listen to these pieces.

  12. I've been a lifelong H-B fan and I expected the worst when I went to an advanced screening last Tuesday. However, I was pleasantly surprised. I think it is a terrific Yogi Bear movie and I highly recommend it. I laughed a lot during the movie as did my 11 year old son. I can't convince anyone to go see a movie, but you cannot critique what you have not seen. I don't expect Yogi to come out on top this weekend, but I believe that his box office figures will have staying power over the next few weeks to make it a good hit for Warner Brothers.

    Also, people keep bringing up the implausibility of the plot. Let me ask those people a question: How plausible can the plot really be when the star of the film is a bear that walks on 2 feet and wears a green hat and a green tie? You go to the movie to see Yogi and Boo Boo and these two characters come across very nicely in this movie.

  13. How plausible, Greg? Not very.
    For me, there has to be some logic involved. I can accept a cartoon ranger with a cartoon bear. I can accept real humans and real animals, even doing implausible things if that's the accepted premise (eg. 'Mr. Ed'). But this involves real humans and something that's neither a cartoon nor human. (Perhaps Ranger Smith should be played by Jar Jar Binks :) At least there was some logic behind Gene Kelly dancing with Jerry or Mary Poppins dancing with penguins; it was clear from the outset these were two different worlds meeting.

    All I can do is give my impressions of why the advertising (the trailers, posters and PR campaign) didn't sell me. That's why I've hoped some people who have actually seen the movie would comment, as that's far fairer to the film itself.

    Incidentally, I noticed in a scan of preview reviews on-line that several critics didn't like (to be mild) the original series but they disliked this even more.

  14. Yowp:

    In the film, they use a lot of double talk to explain how Mr. Mayor can sell Jellystone Park. The movie does not put Jellystone in the same national park status as Yellowstone National Park. The plot is unrealistic because we know how parks work, but Mr. Mayor needs to offset a budget deficit and by selling the park to contractors he will be able to put the city budget in balance. With this done, he will run for governor, but he won't let on what he is really up to until after the election.

    It does sound implausible, but this is Hollywood where they make up their own rules. It is the same plot device, by the way, as "Avatar" but in a kids' movie. Remember the planet in Avatar and how the USA wants to take over but they are hiding their true intentions from the blue people? It's a totally implausible plot and I knew all through Avatar that it was unrealistic, but I went along with it while watching the film. I saw it twice in the theaters and it was a very good film to watch, but I knew the plot was very contrived, forced and predictable.

    The main criteria for me in the Yogi Bear movie was not the plot, but instead through the trailers, promos and the film itself was whether Yogi and Boo Boo are true to their characters, and they are. There are no flatulence jokes. No toilet humor. No groin shots. No expletive deletives. It is a good family film that is fun to watch and to see the antics that Yogi gets himself into. When you see Yogi and Boo Boo dancing to the boombox, it is because they are trying to show Ranger Smith what they could do for Jellystone's 100th anniversary celebration. The whole festivities go awry because Yogi tries to steal the show and ends up making a big mess. When you see Yogi jet skiing, it is because he is trying to show off during the festivities. Yogi tries to steal pic-a-nic basket after pic-a-nic basket. These are all incidents of Yogi being in character and in the end, he is able to pull it all back together again.

    I walked into the movie expecting to see a lame movie, but it won me over. The live action Flintstones movie was awful from start to finish. Space Jam had Bugs Bunny, in particular, completely out of character and had the Looney Tunes go through a bad storyline. I walked in to both films with an open mind but was prepared for the worse. I was very disappointed in both and I refuse to watch them ever since. However, I watched them to judge for myself and gave them the benefit of the doubt. I did the same thing with the Yogi Bear movie and I was pleasantly surprised. The first 20 minutes are slow and I was starting to give up on it, but then it all turned around and it was a blast to watch. I'm glad I checked it out for myself.

  15. Mr. Ranger is not going to like ANY of this, Yogi.