Hanna-Barbera’s Yogi Bear has been bringing laughs and stealing picnic baskets for decades now, and the only thing that’s surprising about his live-action debut is how long it took to make it to the sliver screen. But for those of you who may have missed the 201 theatrical version, Warner Bros’ Blu-ray release is here to help you catch up on the live-action / CG smash hit that was directed by Eric Brevig (Journey to the Center of the Earth ). The film follows Ranger Smith (Tom Cavanagh) trying to save Jellystone park when Mayor Brown (Andrew Daly) decides to sell the park off for lumber when folks stop coming to the park like they used to. When Yogi (Dan Aykroyd) and Boo-Boo (Justin Timberlake) discover they’re about to become homeless, they realize their only hope for saving their beloved park is to team up with Ranger Smith and his love interest, the nature film maker Rachel (Anna Faris).
I’ll admit that I was a little skeptical about this film, but always wanted to see it anyway. Most folks may find it silly, and it is for the most part. Maybe it’s just my love for the classic series, but I enjoyed seeing these characters reactivated while even staying true to it’s classic roots, yet still making it modern. I really like how Tom Cavanagh played Ranger Smith as a stern, but fair and laid back kind of guy. I also liked the clichéd sad part in the film when Yogi – you guessed it – messed up everything and how Ranger Smith said a stinging line that went sort of like “You’re always saying you’re smarter than the average bear, but tell me Yogi, how smart are you now?”. I wasn’t expecting them to to put serious parts like that in the mix (spoiler: even the destruction of some of Jellystone’s forest), but I guess you know what they say about assumptions…
In case you’re curious, both Dan Aykroyd and Justin Timberlake are spot on as Yogi and Boo-Boo, and the CG on the two characters is extremely well done, too, as they seamlessly blend in without looking too fake like most CG / live action films.
As with most of their Blu-ray releases, Warner Bros. did a great job with the picture and sound quality. The film looks and sounds great, as do the special features (which are also presented in HD). Kids will most likely enjoy picking them out, as they’re scattered around a virtual map of Jellystone Park that you’ll have to click around on. And there’s plenty to click on, such as “Voicing Yogi & Boo-Boo”, which spotlights efforts from Dan Aykroyd and Justin Timberlake, who offered their own special spin on these iconic characters. “Jellystone Park Jewel: Littering” is a fake PSA with Ranger Jones, who goes on about the virtues of proper trash placement, and “Vote for Mayor Brown” features a political commercial for the film’s villain. There’s also eight other ones that talk to the cast about their childhood affection for the Yogi, the production effort to recreate Jellystone in the middle of New Zealand, and pointing out the similarities between the cartoon and the movie.
Warner Bros. also included the new Looney Tunes short that was shown before the film in theaters called “Rabid Rider”, featuring the antics of the Road Runner and Wile E. Coyote in a 3D-ish CG form. It was fun to see a new cartoon starring them, but it’s fairly short (just over three minutes) and is nowhere as funny or imaginative as the classic ones.
Of all the recent cartoon-to-live action films that have been released, Yogi Bear is the best of the lot. Others may disagree and call the film silly and juvenile, but that’s exactly what Hanna-Barbera’s classic cartoon was all about. A lot of credit has to go to the amazing CG animation on both Yogi Bear and Boo-Boo, as well as the spot on voice acting by Dan Aykroyd and Justin Timberlake, which really capture the spirit of Daws Butler and Don Messick’s classic portrayals. Its not going to win any awards or best-of lists, but this live-action update of the classic cartoon is definitely a fun way for parents and other fans who grew up watching these characters to share what made them so special in the first place. Forgive the pun, but this is one adaptation that’s smarter than the average family movie!
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Warner Bros. Pictures