Don’t even bother if you’ve heard this one before: A greedy politician/stock villain wants to take over a nature preserve/character’s home for financial gain, and it’s up to a rag tag group of do-gooders to put a stop to it.
That’s Yogi Bear, and is it ever painful. Warner Bros. spent a staggering $80 million on this thing, and slapped it with that god awful, hackneyed script that’s been done so many times, it’s amazing anyone would green light it. But, maybe the execs saw something in the fact that a talking bear would be placed in the middle of it, although what may forever be a mystery considering what appears on screen.
This is after all based on a cartoon about a bear that steals pic-a-nic baskets, charming for sure in short bursts. Stretched out into feature length, even to the meager 70 or so minutes excising the end credits, is just unbearable. This is to the point of not even trying, the CG effects shamefully matched up with the live action actors, mostly because kids wouldn’t notice.
Now you’re thinking, “big, bad, mean critic rips on harmless kiddie fare,” but it’s not that easy. There are plenty of animated or even live action/animated fare for the younger set out there. Yogi Bear was given $80 million because it would put $15 seats in the theaters for gimmicky 3D, and nothing else. You can look back on animation/live action hybrids like the great Roger Rabbit and see the care, thought, and thorough planning come through on screen. This feels like a meager rush job created after asking the general populace what they want in an online survey.
Kids? Sure, they’ll love it. It talks down to them, adds in plenty of poop and fart jokes, plus they’ll never know they’ve been had with such familiar plot devices. It even moves at a brisk clip, Yogi one of the first things to appear on screen along with good ol’ Boo Boo. They’ll never be bored with all of the frantic action on-screen, and they’ll be saved from a simply pitiful, frozen Anna Faris performance. There are plenty of reasons some kid’s films live on through the ages, and Yogi Bear doesn’t have any of them.
Warner’s encode for Yogi Bear seems to be drawn from a mixture of film and digital, the former the majority holder. Generally, this one is up to snuff, with a clean, mildly soft appearance, and overloaded with bold, rich color. Black levels are great, and little of the film is ever taking place in anything other than broad daylight.
Yogi was shot for 3D though, and that’s still an obvious focus in 2D. Characters appear sharpened to stand out from the background. They almost appear to be standing on a green screen stage, yet that’s certainly not the case since the set is obviously built practically. It’s one thing for the spliced in CG bears to look the part, but another for T.J. Miller to be standing in the ranger cabin with a clear outline.
There are some compression issues too, a fireworks display gone wrong at 37-minutes tragic with regards to hi-def AVC encodes. The amount of sparks and scattered debris is far too much for this one, and it breaks down for the better part of a minute. Noise likes to creep into the frame here and there as well, the worst of it coming during a dinner date around 20:23. A few shots contain a frozen grain structure too, a bit suspicious coming from a studio known for botched new releases.
However, despite the glossy appearance given to many of the human characters, the stars look superb. Yogi and Boo Boo carry distinct fur structures, free of any extravagant aliasing. The animation detail seems to be lessened for medium shots at the source, no fault of this Blu-ray effort. Yogi’s hat and tie have very specific textures too, a wonderfully detailed bit of animation work.
Jellystone is a constant source of ambiance for this DTS-HD mix, birds and insects chirping almost non-stop in all channels. It sets up a nice atmosphere for the film, more so than any of the dialogue which is painfully unmatched. The voice work of Dan Aykroyd and Justin Timberlake come through with added precision, while the live action actors sound muddled and indistinct. The lower quality isn’t necessarily obvious when human characters are interacting, but toss in one of the bears and the difference is hard to miss.
There are multiple action scenes scattered around, the fireworks assault at 36:39 the definite highlight. When they pop, a satisfactory boom is delivered in the sub, and they whistle as they pass through via an effective soundfield. Stereo positioning is strong throughout, although dialogue is squarely placed in the center without any movement.
The subwoofer has a bit more oomph in spots beyond the explosives, including a dose of Sir Mix-a-Lot at 23-minutes, and a waterfall during one of the late chase sequences. It’s not an extensive low-end use, but it’s clean and pure, enough to generate a noticeable rumble and satisfy any adult home theater owner while they’re stuck watching this thing with the kids.
Surely you’re looking for the ultimate Yogi Bear commentary track, yet Warner has chosen not to extend the opportunity to anyone involved… or they refused. Instead, they insert a clunky visual menu for a smattering of featurettes called Spending a Day at Jellystone. There are a variety of topics here and it takes a while to find them thanks to the needless layout. Head to the ranger cabin though and check out the bit on stand-ins though since it’s the best one.
Yogi Bear Mash-Up looks at the cartoon and the show, along with how the various elements were brought together for this live action adaptation. Rabid Raider is the final piece, a Wile E. Coyote animated short that offers more entertainment in three minutes than the entire film attached to it.