Directed By: Eric Brevig
Starring: Dan Aykroyd (voice), Justin Timberlake (Voice), Anna Faris, Tom Cavanaugh, T.J. Miller, Andrew Daly, Nate Corddry
| Studio: Warner |
Film Length: 80 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 16:9
Subtitles: English SDH, French, Spanish, Portuguese
Release Date: March 22, 2011
The Film **½Yogi Bear adapts the popular Hanna-Barbera television cartoon series into a hybrid live-action/CGI film. As with his television incarnation, Yogi Bear (voiced by Ackroyd) enlists his diminutive pal Boo Boo (voiced by Timberlake) in various schemes designed to liberate visitors to Jellystone Park from their picnic baskets much to the consternation of Ranger Smith (Cavanaugh). Smith, Yogi, and Boo Boo find a common cause, however, when the corrupt Mayor Brown (Daly) and his yes-man Chief of Staff (Corddry) concoct a plan to sell off the one remaining natural resource in their city, Jellystone Park, in order to cover the massive deficits they have incurred. The Mayor recruits ambitious but dim Park Ranger Jones (Miller) to foil Smith's attempts to save the park, while Smith, Yogi, and Boo Boo enlist the help of a nature documentary filmmaker named Rachel (Faris).
If the above synopsis sounds over simplistic, then I have described the film accurately. One could likely pick any two eight minute episodes of the original cartoon series and find more sophistication of plotting than went into this entire feature film. While the screenwriters get an "E" for effort in this regard, the average ticket buyer for a Yogi Bear film is probably not looking for a Christopher Nolan level of plot layering. Lowering the bar of expectation accordingly, the film is still hit and miss, with some funny sequences worked into the early going and a few amusing slapstick set-pieces sprinkled throughout. A romantic subplot between Ranger Smith and Rachel is an exercise in lack of chemistry that brings the film to a halt whenever any screen time is devoted to it. T.J. Miller as Ranger Jones is apparently supposed to be providing some low-to-mid-brow comedy with his slapstick buffoonery and continuous vexation of Ranger Smith, at presumably a much lower cost to the filmmakers than the titular CGI Bear who serves largely the same purpose, but also manages to stop all cinematic entropy whenever he appears on screen. These frequent lulls along with a strange structural choice to place the movie's second act low-point very early in the proceedings result in a film that seems to run long even though it lasts a mere 80 minutes.
Undemanding viewers will at least be treated to some beautiful cinematography exploiting spectacular New Zealand locations and to some technically impressive character animation from effects company Rhythm & Hues who, along with voice actors Dan Ackroyd and Justin Timberlake, imbue Yogi and Boo Boo with more personality than most of the live-action cast. Ironically my biggest trepidation going into the film was associated with the idea of Ackroyd and Timberlake voicing their characters. As it turns out, of the live-action cast, only Andrew Daly as the sublimely vain Mayor Daly manages to register as truly memorable, ironically by playing his character in an amusingly cartoonish manner.
The Video *****The video comes courtesy of an AVC encoded 1080p presentation that fills the entire 16:9 frame. While the film not be demo material for prospective screenwriters, the video presentation is a fine flat rendering of the film's beautiful digital 3D cinematography. It's not hard to spot several shots intended to be 3D gags throughout the movie, but 2D viewers will still be treated to plenty of finely rendered eye candy with bright but not garish colors and finely rendered contrast and detail.
The Audio ***½Audio comes courtesy of a DTS HD-MA lossless 5.1 track. The surround field comes impressively to life during many of the film's action set-pieces, but I found the dialog track to be a bit harsh and compressed sounding by modern standards during many scenes, inclusive of parts recorded in studios by voice actors. Alternate language dubs are available in Dolby Digital 5.1 in Spanish, French, and Portuguese.
The Extras **½When the disc is first played, the viewer is greeted with the following skippable promos in AVC-encoded 1080p high definition video with Dolby Digiral 5.1 audio:
- Warner Blu-ray Promo (1:53)
- Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part One BD/DVD Trailer (2:19)
Proper extras are accessible from the disc main menu under the "Special Features" heading. They are presented in AVC encoded 1080p video with Dolby Digital 5.1 sound unless otherwise indicated. In general, the extras are long on quantity, but frequently short on depth.
Spending a Day at Jellystone Park is an interactive map of Jellystone Park with the following five "hot linked" areas that provide graphical sub-menus with access"picnic basket" icons indicating links to various features. In general, I found this approach fun to look at but awkward as a way of accessing content since the featurettes seem to be a random mix of behind the scenes information and gag pieces. They could have benefitted from a more logical grouping so viewers looking for one type of content would not have to wade through the other :
- Stand-in Shenanigans (2:31) is a behind the scenes look at the New Zealand actors who donned bear suits to stand in for the CGI Yogi and Boo Boo during live action filming: 6'4" Fraser McCloud and 4' 0" Jimmy. Interview participants include Anna Faris ("Rachel"), Fraser McCloud, Tom Cavanaugh ("Ranger Smith"), Andrew Daly ("Mayor Brown"),
- Ranger Jones' Real Life Audition (3:04) covers actor T.J. Miller's ("Ranger Jones") audition recorded with a live bear. Footage of the audition is shown intercut with interview footage of Miller discussing the difficulties inherent to executing that bad idea.
- Baskit-Nabber 2000 (2:00) discusses how the flying device built by Yogi was realized on film via a combination of elaborate props and CG effects. Behind the scenes footage is mixed with interview comments from Dan Aykroyd ("Yogi"), Visual Effects Supervisor Betsy Paterson, VFX Producer Steve Kullback, and CG Sequence Supervisor William Georgiou.
- Voicing Yogi and Boo Boo (4:14) Looks at the voice work of Dan Aykroyd ("Yogi") and Justin Timberlake ("Boo Boo") with behind the scenes footage of their recording sessions and discussions of how they approached the parts. Interview participants include Brevig, Aykroyd, Timberlake, and Producer Donald De Line
- Jellystone Park Jewel: Litterbug (1:29) is a brief segment in which T.J. Miller in character as Ranger Jones offers what is intended to be a comically awkward fake PSA on littering that turns out to be nothing more than 89 seconds of the viewer's life that they will never get back.
- Vote for Mayor Brown (1:14) features actor Andrew Daly in character as Mayor Brown providing a collection of faux outtakes for a gubernatorial political ad.
- "Sickness Was Love" - A Love Song for Rachel (2:23) is a purposely cheesy music video for the awkward love song Ranger Smith composes for Rachel in the film.
- Jellystone Park Tourism (1:19) is a faux ad for Jellystone Park with an intro from Tom Cavanaugh in character as Ranger Smith, testimonials from several anonymous happy park-goers, and a cameo from a certain picnic basket loving bear.
- Animated Bears (2:34) discusses the art of blending live action with CGI characters, how this was handled during principal photography, and the efforts that went into designing the virtual characters for 3D CG animation. On-camera comments are offered by Brevig, Faris, Nate Corddry ("Chief of Staff"), Paterson, VFX Art Director Michael Meaker, and Lead Animation Supervisor Joseph Ksander
- Jellystone Park Jewel: Yogi's Secret Hiding Spot (1:46) is another faux PSA from Ranger Jones, this time looking at several objects Yogi keeps hidden in a spot behind a tree. It is almost as unfunny as the previous "Jewel".
- The Rapids (3:15) focuses on one particularly complicated action and effects set-piece from near the film's climax and how it was accomplished. On camera comments are provided by Faris, Cavanaugh, Brevig, and Paterson.
- Everyone Wants to Be Yogi (2:28) is a tribute to the cartoon character with interview participants reminiscing about their fondness for the TV show. On camera comments are provided by: Ackroyd, Timberlake, Faris, Miller, Corddry, Brevig, Ksander, Executive Producer Andrew Haas, Paterson, and Daly.
- Frog-Mouthed Turtle (2:49) is a look at the film's somewhat unsung third CG character, an unusual turtle who s Boo Boo's pet. Participants discuss how he was realized via a combination of CG and live props. Interview participants include: Timberlake, Meaker, Visual Effects Supervisor Jason Bayever, Paterson, CG Sequence Supervisor Jonathan Robinson, Ksander, Kullback, and Lead Compositor Brandon Nelson.
- Building Jellystone Park (3:23) looks at the way that Jellystone Park was realized on film by using spectacular New Zealand locations to represent an idyllic American Park. On-screen comments are provided by Brevig, Producer Donald DeLine, Cavanaugh, Faris, Production Designer David R. Sandefur, Haas, and Paterson
Yogi Bear Mash-Up (3:38) is a brief featurette that intersperses juxtapositions of various clips from the cartoon series and live action film with talking head interview comments from Timberlake, Daly, Miller, Brevig, Kullback, Aykroyd, and Cavanaugh
Are You Smarter Than the Average Bear? is an interactive matching game that can be played with one's Blu-ray remote. Kids may enjoy this a couple of time, but it is not going to replace their Wii.
Looney Tunes "Rabid Rider" (3:07- 2.4:1 Aspect Ratio) is a 2D presentation of one of three recently produced 3D CGI Road-Runner cartoons. The plot involves a series of gags with the Coyote attempting to use a Segway-like scooter to capture the Road-Runner with comically painful results. The color scheme features a somewhat garish emphasis on purple and magenta hues.
SD DVD & Digital Copy - As is the case with all recent Warner BDs of theatrical features, a separate disc is included with an SD DVD of the film and a digital copy. The DVD presentation is bare bones with the film in 16:9 enhanced widescreen video, English Dolby Digital 5.1 sound, and available English SDH, French, or Spanish subtitles.
The digital copy is on-disc, and is compatible with either iTunes or Windows Media formats. It is unlocked through the use of a one-time password provided on a paper insert to the disc case.
PackagingThe disc is enclosed in a standard Blu-ray case with die-cut holes to reduce plastic use and an extra hub on the inner left side allowing it to accommodate the SD DVD/digital copy disc as well as the BD of the film. The only insert is the sheet with the code to unlock the iTunes or Windows Media digital copy. The hard case is enclosed in a cardboard slipcover which reproduces the same artwork but with foil enhancements, embossing, and additional text touting the SD DVD and Digital Copy.
Capsule/Summary **½Yogi Bear is a sporadically funny adaptation of the popular television cartoon that displays a singular lack of ambition in its plotting. The animated Yogi and Boo Boo characters are technically well done and at their most entertaining when participating in antics similar to their hand-drawn animated television predecessors, but too much of the film is carried by a live action cast who are given little to work with and find no way of elevating the material. The Blu-ray presentation features near-perfect video and a dynamic and dimensional audio track marred slightly by some vocal harshness. Special features are plentiful, but overall lacking in depth. They are laid out in an unnecessarily complex way that mixes brief behind the scenes featurettes with gag material in a nested structure of animated menus.