Tuesday, 4 January 2011


Roadshow Films
Now Showing

Opening with a mock Morgan Freeman voice over, the kind that's come to signify any Hollywood drama grasping for gravitas, there's a glimmer of hope that Yogi Bear 3D could be smarter than the average kids film, even if it is based on a decades old cartoon series with no real cultural cache in this country.

But it's not too long before all your doubts (raised during an inadvertent trailer viewing, if not previously by the mere idea of it) are confirmed; it's underwhelming family friendly fare best enjoyed by kids, aged 8 and under, and their parents (or grandparents, given the age of Yogi) on a nostalgia trip.

I'm not even sure if today's younger (Australian) generations are even aware of Yogi Bear, the pic-a-nic basket stealing, hat and tie wearing brown bear and resident of Jellystone National Park; the five and seven year olds who accompanied me to my screening hadn't heard of him before the ads for the film.

Yogi made his debut on American TV in 1958, as a supporting character on The Huckleberry Hound Show, before earning his own show in 1961. A creation of the Hanna-Barbera animation stable, I'm not aware of Yogi appearing on Australian TV in at least the last decade.

Yogi Bear 3D is not animated but a mix of live action and CG animation; Yogi and his somewhat wet blanket sidekick, Boo Boo, a rather young bear who's not Yogi's son but the two do co-habitate (not that there's anything wrong with that!), are rendered in CG and voiced by Dan Ackroyd and Justin Timberlake, respectively.

Their human counterparts are Ranger Smith (Tom Cavanaugh), head ranger at Jellystone, Ranger Jones (T.J. Smith), who can't wait to be head ranger, mostly so he can drive the jeep, and Rachel (Anna Faris), an animal documentarian who has come to Jellystone to make a film about Yogi.

But Jellystone's residents and pristine beauty come under threat from Mayor Brown (Andrew Daley), who wants to declare the national park as agricultural land and sell it off, reversing his city's debt and launching his campaign for Governor. He may look like a young Kevin Rudd, but Mayor Brown's policies are very much of a John Howard nature.

This none-too-subtle, though not unappreciated, pro-environment message – that national parks are an invaluable natural resource worth preserving – won't sit well with those who found Pixar's WALL-E an unwelcome, pro-green political diatribe, but to quote Cee Lo Green, forget you! It may be the film's one redeeming feature; nostalgia and 3D certainly aren't enough to save it.

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