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2010_yogi_bear_wallpaper_003Yogi Bear, the brown bear with a huge appetite for pic-a-nic baskets, has been in hibernation on the big screen for almost half a century. The last time the “smarter than the average bear” and his sidekick Boo-Boo played in movie theatres Lyndon D. Johnson was president and The Kinks were about to release their debut album. The intervening years have been kind to the big brown bear, who is up to his old tricks in a new self titled film starring (the voices) Dan Aykroyd and Justin Timberlake.

Set, as all great Yogi Bear stories are, in Jellystone Park, the beginning of “Yogi Bear” finds the park teetering on the edge of bankruptcy. Attendance is down—mostly because of Yogi’s habit of stealing food from any guests silly enough to try and pic-a-nic at the park—and if Ranger Smith (Tom Cavanagh) can’t figure out a way to raise $30,000 the corrupt mayor of the town (played to smarmy perfection by Andrew Daly) will rezone the land and sell it off to loggers. When Ranger Smith gets reassigned to another posting Yogi must use his smarts to help save the park and his home.

“Yogi Bear”—both the film and the character—is hard to dislike. At an economical 75 minutes the film’s goofy slapstick doesn’t overstay its welcome and will even provide a nostalgic kick for anyone old enough to remember the original cartoon series. The big bumbling bear is a classic character—apparently based on another classic character, Art Carney’s Ed Norton from “The Honeymooners”—and the movie does him justice. They don’t try and reinvent the wheel here, this is a very simple kid’s flick that stays true to the spirit of the Hanna-Barbera cartoons.

The audience of kids I saw the movie with weren’t howling with laughter, but they were engaged with the characters. Aykroyd and Timberlake take pains to do actual character voices, unlike most celebrity voice work which just plays off of the actor’s already established persona, they do bang on impressions of Yogi and Boo-Boo.
“Yogi Bear” is a movie for the whole family but will appeal most to very young kids. It has gentle humor and action, larger than life characters and good messages about loyalty, perseverance and (of course) saving the environment. It may not be smarter than your average kid’s flick but for what it is, it’s enjoyable.

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