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Yogi Bear

Ah, Jellystone National Park, how I have missed thy verdant vistas, thy sweeping treelines, thy anthromorphic bears and the dog that dost speak in the mellifluous onomatopoeia of "Yelp. Yelp. Yelp." Thou wast long overdue for a trip to the screen besilvered, and yet in the journey to graphics through the devices of Lords Hewlett and Packard, thy charm has become unencumbered.

Oh, please. It ain't Shakespeare. It ain't even Ben Jonson. Or Ben Johnson.

Instead, Yogi Bear might be much ado about nothing from whatever angle you approach it. In short little bursts, the character still works, amusingly if not sophisticatedly scheming to steal "pic-a-nic" baskets. Tom Cavanagh makes a pretty good Ranger Smith, exasperated in a way kids might recognize their parents being from time to time. And the story even throws in some environmental concerns.

It's when Yogi Bear tries for some sort of relevancy, or following what people think movie scripts should have that it gets downright boring. Anna Faris plays one of her patented ditzy characters as a love interest for Ranger Smith, and that's when things get heavy-handed about nature conservancy and kissy stuff.

At least Yogi has the same confusion young kids will about it, and is almost as annoyed.

The movie also follows the pattern set out by Alvin and the Chipmunks of casting hip edgy comedians as villains. In this case, it's Andrew Daly as a scheming incompetent mayor looking to run for Governor, with Nate Corddry as his slightly more efficient assistant.

They're drawn so broadly and given so little actually funny to say that it's tiresome. The same could be said about any villains in the original cartoons, but at least they only took up two or three minutes out of any segment. When my six year old whispered, "I hate them," I'm not sure he mean that he thought they were evil.

But as Yogi and Boo-Boo, Dan Aykroyd and Justin Timberlake seem to be channeling their inner children, having fun and trying to do justice to a purposely fluffy piece. Both are spot on in duplicating the original voices. When the movie focuses on their bear shenanigans, not trying to make them relevant or logical, it's at least funny.

Unfortunately, that isn't often enough. You'd think Warner could have shown the script to Yogi ahead of time for approval. After all, if he's smarter than the average bear, he should be smarter than the average studio executive.

Derek McCaw

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