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Yogi Bear Blu-ray + DVD + Digital Copy Review

Yogi Bear (2010) movie poster Yogi Bear

Theatrical Release: December 17, 2010 / Running Time: 80 Minutes / Rating: PG

Director: Eric Brevig / Writers: Jeffrey Ventimilia, Joshua Sternin, Brad Copeland / Songs List

Cast: Dan Aykroyd (voice of Yogi Bear), Justin Timberlake (voice of Boo Boo Bear), Anna Faris (Rachel), Tom Cavanagh (Ranger Smith), T.J. Miller (Ranger Jones), Nate Corddry (Chief of Staff), Andrew Daly (Mayor R. Brown), Josh Robert Thompson (Narrator)

Buy Yogi Bear (2010) from Amazon.com:
Blu-ray + DVD + Digital Copy Limited-Time Double DVD Pack DVD Blu-ray Blu-ray 3D + Blu-ray + DVD + Digital Copy Instant Video


Adapting an old animated television series into a feature film isn't an easy thing. Benefitting from brand recognition, you may do pretty well at the box office, but that isn't guaranteed (as Dudley Do-Right, Josie and the Pussycats, and Thunderbirds demonstrated, to name a few).
And the odds are against you being warmly received by the general public. Kids unfamiliar with the property might enjoy the comedy, but for everyone else, you're competing against childhood memories and unlikely to win that fight. If you do, you can expect film critics, even those recognizing the challenge of fitting an episodic gag-based cartoon into a feature film mold, to scorch you.

Still, many studios decide the pros of the task (which include extending the life and visibility of fading properties) outweigh the cons. In doing so, Warner Bros. Pictures and Hanna-Barbera Productions could look towards the successful model of Fox's Alvin and the Chipmunks, which inexpensively turned a popular but forgotten entity from the 1960s and '80s into one of 2007's biggest hit movies. Shortly after that, a feature filming of Yogi Bear was announced. Like Alvin, its even higher-grossing Squeakquel, and Fox's less profitable Garfield movies before them, Yogi Bear puts computer-animated leads in a live-action world, casting familiar but affordable comic actors across from the CG stars.

Yogi Bear (voiced by Dan Aykroyd) and Boo Boo (voiced by Justin Timberlake) set their sights on a family picnic basket at the beginning of the movie. Documentarian Rachel (Anna Faris) and Ranger Smith (Tom Cavanagh) do their part to save Jellystone Park and the two bears that call it home.

Though boasting he's smarter than the average bear, Yogi Bear (voiced by Dan Aykroyd) often isn't smart enough. Sure, he can talk and do things brown bears typically cannot, but his attempts to steal the picnic baskets of those visiting his home turf Jellystone Park do not always go as planned. Still, he and his diminutive, indeterminate companion Boo Boo (Justin Timberlake) rarely go hungry. They are even on good terms with Ranger Smith (Tom Cavanagh, NBC's "Ed"), the park's top authority figure.

Unfortunately, things aren't looking too good for Jellystone. Attendance and revenue are down, making the sizable property an obvious solution to the economic problems facing irresponsible Mayor Brown (Andrew Daly). The mayor and his yes-man chief of staff (Nathan Corddry) give Ranger Smith one week to raise the necessary funds to eliminate Jellystone's budget deficit. It's more than a longshot, but the Ranger, his bears, and their new friend, wildlife documentary filmmaker Rachel (Anna Faris), give it the old college try, swiftly planning a big centennial summer bash with fireworks.

Resisting the temptation to swipe picnic baskets, Yogi and Boo Boo agree to stay out of sight at the event, which begins promisingly. So promisingly, in fact, that the Mayor grows concerned that season pass purchases could make up the difference, nix his own logging rights sales plans, and put a damper on his gubernatorial ambitions. To prevent all that, he entices Smith's eager assistant Ranger Jones (T.J. Miller) to do what he can to spoil the party.

Irresponsible Mayor Brown (Andrew Daly, right) and his butt-kissing chief of staff (Nathan Corddry) make for amusing antagonists. Yogi and Boo Boo take to the skies in the Baskit-Nabber 2000 to retrieve Jellystone's newly-identified endangered frog-mouthed turtle.

I entered Yogi Bear expecting little of value from it. I enjoyed whatever incarnations of the TV program I was exposed to in my youth, but not enough to maintain fandom or to want to revisit it in adulthood (before the opportunity to review a couple of well-timed DVDs of the franchise's '80s cartoons arose, at least). One need only look at Box Office Mojo's list of live-action filmings of animated TV series to know this kind of thing never turns out well.
From The Flintstones to Scooby-Doo to Transformers to The Last Airbender... even when the business is good, the product is lousy. There are few movies on that list for which my appreciation exceeds mere tolerance.

By the standards of the class, Yogi Bear actually fares pretty well and much better than anticipated. No, this isn't a great film that will be loved for generations to come. But it's not a bad movie you'd wish didn't come along and taint the legacy of Hanna-Barbera's 50-year-old universe. At least, that's how I feel, admittedly holding moderate respect for the source material.

Directed by the 2008 Journey to the Center of the Earth's Eric Brevig from a script credited to three veterans of '90s and 2000s sitcoms (among them, "Murphy Brown", "That '70s Show", and "Arrested Development"), this Yogi Bear seems faithful to the establishment, which featured in ten TV series from 1961 through 1992. Brevig and company don't bother to update the characters to meet modern sensibilities; they simply adapt them to fit the needs of a major 2010 family film. It's easier to get away with that dealing with bears and park rangers than a chart-topping musical act. While the Chipmunks may get hoodies and bling, Boo Boo and Yogi retain their respective bow tie and collar/tie combo.

Like almost all kid-oriented cartoons, Yogi's assorted TV shows relied on comedy gags, which accordingly power some of this film. 2010's Yogi avoids going too broad or showy, dealing out contraptions like a basket catapult and a homemade aircraft along with a waterskiing act. Such bits are tastefully incorporated into the storyline, which definitely flirts with family film genericism (complete with environmental recklessness and a deadline to raise funds by) but stays fresh and ahead of the curve.

This can't end well. Yogi Bear twirls a fire baton while jet-skiing on Jellystone Lake.

A big part of that is the human cast's doing. Cavanagh opts not to compete with his digital co-stars, playing scenes naturally with a welcome low-key charm. As his invented love interest, Faris is an obvious choice and someone you're surprised to find hasn't done this sort of thing before (her past family film involvement being vocal roles).
T.J. Miller is more amusing in this PG setting than he's been in much racier fare. And shining brightest among the live-action lot is Andrew Daly, who makes the inept, self-centered mayor a genuinely funny antagonist instead of the typically cartoonish villain.

My good will carries over to the cast's top-billed vocalists. Nearly as fitting a selection as his fellow Ghostbuster was for Garfield, Dan Aykroyd takes a break from sharing his supernatural beliefs and Crystal Head Vodka to pick up a now-rare film credit. He does an admirable job in the title role and surprisingly so does Justin Timberlake, despite his casting feeling like a lame publicity ploy.

Yogi Bear never passes "pleasantly diverting" and it doesn't get everything right. Made-for-3D gimmicks stand out in a bad way and a dance to Sir Mix-a-Lot's "Baby Got Back" is borderline egregious (though brief). Also, some visual effects don't hold up, but the most important of all -- Yogi and Boo Boo being a believable and well-blended presence -- is remarkably well done. And the whole thing is sharply paced, a brisk 73-minute pre-credits runtime ensuring that no climax belabors its point or outstays its welcome. If old cartoons were regularly turned into appealing films, this one would seem ordinary. But they're not and that elevates this painless production close to an unexpected treat.

In its opening weekend, Yogi Bear grossed a weak $16.4 million, nearly tripled in earnings by Tron: Legacy and only narrowly defeating the steeply-declining Chronicles of Narnia sequel starting its second week. It looked like Yogi would perform more like Speed Racer or Land of the Lost than the two Chipmunks movies whose timing was copied. Fortunately for Warner, the film recovered and went on to have some of 2010's best legs. Inching its way towards the $100 million mark domestically and recently passing it overseas, Yogi is still a far cry from the Alvin numbers sought, but it's definitely not the financial flop that it initially seemed poised to become.

Coming to home video faster than the average movie, Yogi Bear was released this week in five different editions. There is a single-disc DVD and a single-disc Blu-ray for those who are content with a single format. For those who prefer covering all their bases, there are two combo packs, a 3-disc Blu-ray 3D + Blu-ray + DVD + Digital Copy set and the 2-Disc Blu-ray + DVD + Digital Copy combo we review here. The fifth set, not made available for review, is a Limited-Time DVD Double Pack which pairs the standalone DVD with Yogi the Easter Bear, an hour-long, traditionally animated 1994 TV special, quite possibly the exact same 2005 disc sold separately.

Yogi Bear: Blu-ray + DVD + Digital Copy cover art -- click to buy from Amazon.com Blu-ray & DVD Details

1.78:1 Widescreen (DVD Anamorphic)
Blu-ray: DTS-HD 5.1 MA (English), Dolby Digital 5.1 (French, Spanish, Portuguese)
DVD: Dolby Digital 5.1 (English)
Subtitles: English for Hearing Impaired, French, Spanish; BD-Only: Portuguese
Not Closed Captioned; Extras Subtitled
Release Date: March 22, 2011
Two single-sided discs (BD-25 & DVD-9)
Suggested Retail Price: $35.99
Blue Eco-Friendly Keepcase in Embossed Holographic Cardboard Slipcover
Also available in standalone DVD ($28.98 SRP), standalone Blu-ray Disc ($29.98 SRP),
Blu-ray 3D + Blu-ray + DVD + Digital Copy combo pack ($44.98 SRP), Limited-Time DVD Double Pack ($29.98 SRP) with Yogi the Easter Bear and on Amazon Instant Video

VIDEO and AUDIO

Yogi Bear looks delightful on Blu-ray, its dazzling picture filling a 16:9 screen with outstanding clarity and vibrancy. The video is basically as perfect as 1080p high-definition video can be and it leaves nary a thing to be desired. The DTS-HD 5.1 master audio mix is also very pleasing. You're right if you guessed that this isn't a movie passing up the chance to engulf its audience from time to time. Surround channels are put to good use and all sound is crisp, consistent, and lively.

The DVD's 1.78:1 presentation is noticeably weaker. There is more compression ringing than there should be from a new 80-minute, $80-million film on a barebones DVD. (It doesn't help that the disc checks in well under capacity, even with over 1 GB devoted to digital copies.) The colors are also oddly blown out. Still, the sharpness and detail gained on Blu-ray won't be missed by those not accustomed to it; this duller transfer should appease most of the general public. Similarly, the disc's Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack isn't as potent as the BD's DTS-HD, but it does a decent job of distributing sound clearly and spatially.

Bam-Bam the bear eats the pages of script with which T.J. Miller records his Ranger Jones audition. Two New Zealanders -- one short, one tall -- stand in for Boo Boo and Yogi Bear with furry brown costumes and handheld character heads.

BONUS FEATURES, MENUS and PACKAGING

The main course of the Blu-ray's bonus features is Spending a Day at Jellystone Park, which offers 14 making-of shorts, spread out among five interactive environments. While Yogi and Boo Boo pop out around the animated locales, selecting baskets leads to the behind-the-scenes vignettes.

Things begin in the Ranger Station, where we find T.J. Miller's Ranger Jones audition (3:04) across from real grizzly bear Bam-Bam, which he discusses in between glimpses of his submitted tape. "Stand-In Shenanigans" (2:31) gives us looks at the two appropriately-sized New Zealanders who stand in for Yogi and Boo Boo during rehearsals and some filming.

A vested Dan Aykroyd puts his spin on Yogi Bear as the new voice of the classic cartoon character. Somewhat in character, Tom Cavanagh sings a love song to Rachel (Anna Faris) in this goofy music video.

Up on Lookout Mountain, we get "Voicing Yogi & Boo Boo" (4:14), which provides recording studio footage and discussions of Dan Aykroyd and Justin Timberlake's performances. In the same section, "Baskit-Nabber 2000" (2:00) covers creating Yogi's flying device and recreating it in the computer. "Litterbug" (1:29), the first of two "Jellystone Park Jewels", has T.J. Miller in character as Ranger Jones picking up trash.

A trio of amusing videos await in Jellystone Lake. "Vote for Mayor Brown" (1:13) is a reel of outtakes from Andy Daly's character's gubernatorial campaign ad. "Sickness Was Love" (2:22) is a music video for an extended version of Ranger Smith's love song for Rachel, sung and co-written by Tom Cavanagh with a variety of goofy visuals. The section wraps up with a Ranger Smith-introduced Jellystone Park Tourism promo (1:19) featuring crew member testimonials.

Digital fur is applied to Yogi in "Animated Bears" which details the process of bringing the film's two bear characters to life in CGI. Director Eric Brevig discusses the Hanna-Barbera cartoon from which the film is adapted (in front of an image from it) in the "Yogi Bear Mash-Up."

Jelly Jarring Rapids holds the second "Jellystone Park Jewel", in which Ranger Jones explores Yogi's Secret Hiding Spot (1:46). "Animated Bears" (2:33) details the process of filming scenes with placeholders for the CGI characters and then designing the characters themselves.
"The Rapids" (3:14) takes us behind the scenes of the film's climax, specifically the parts with water tubs and blue screen.

Finally, in the Redwood Valley, "Everybody Wants to be Yogi" (2:27) celebrates the cartoon with clips of it and some cast members' Yogi Bear impressions. "Building Jellystone Park" (3:22) addresses filming on location in New Zealand and designing sets there. "Frog-Mouthed Turtle" (2:48) considers the creation of the film's third CGI character and its filming prop replica.

Though it arrives in small doses and with no "Play All" function, these 34 minutes of content both shed light on production and entertain in a creative non-typical way. Perhaps the only logical thing missing is a full episode of the show. With the Hanna-Barbera library at its disposal, it is strange that Warner didn't include one here, especially with the Easter special being available in that 2-pack with the DVD.

"Yogi Bear Mash-Up" (3:37) compares clips from the animated series to clips from the movie. Since there aren't all that many parallels, they are rounded out by cast and crew further singing the cartoon's praises.

Match the foods and fill Yogi's picnic basket before time runs out in the memory game "Are You Smarter Than the Average Bear?" The medium and mode may have been updated, but on Segway in CGI, Wile E. Coyote still pursues Road Runner in the new Looney Tunes short "Rabid Rider."

"Are You Smarter Than the Average Bear?" is a memory-testing matching game. The player matches the food items hidden beneath the plates to fill Yogi's picnic basket before time runs out. Offered in three difficulty levels (the hardest of which is appropriately challenging), this activity (which features in-character Aykroyd sound bites) is entertaining enough and its gameplay is smooth.

Rabid Rider (3:07), the short film that preceded Yogi Bear in theaters, revives the age-old Road Runner/Wile E. Coyote rivalry with Segways and computer animation.
It manages to do so without betraying the Looney Tunes tradition.

As usual for a Warner combo pack, the only extras on the DVD are digital copies of the movie in iTunes and Windows Media formats. The DVD sold on its own includes the two "Jellystone Park Jewels" shorts and the "Yogi Bear Mash-Up", as well as French and Spanish 5.1 dubs not preserved here.

The Blu-ray opens with a promo for Blu-ray and a trailer for Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 1.

The Blu-ray's simple menu runs score over a wider version of poster artwork. The menus expand upward silently. The combo DVD's menu, which is preceded by no trailers, is comparable and accompanied only by a languages menu (because scene selections would have been pushing it).

The two discs fit into a standard slim ecologically-cut Blu-ray case, which is topped by a nifty cardboard slipcover that adds embossing to three sides and tasteful holography to all four. The only insert supplies instructions and a code for redeeming the digital copies.

Boo Boo (Justin Timberlake), Ranger Smith (Tom Cavanagh), Yogi Bear (Dan Aykroyd), and Rachel (Anna Faris) get wet on an unplanned white water rafting trip.

CLOSING THOUGHTS

While it must help that I entered with the lowest of expectations, I firmly believe that Yogi Bear is better than most critics have stated. It is still kind of a middling film, but it's entertaining, true to the cartoon, and not especially crass or transparently commercial. While this isn't high quality family cinema or the stuff of promising sequels, it doesn't deserve to be instantly dismissed as a desperate idea shrewdly executed with trendy technology.

A single viewing of Yogi Bear should be enough for most adults, but Warner has given those who really enjoy it a number of ownership options. Amazon's present discounting puts four of the five version at comparable prices and the easily ruled-out fifth is the 3D combo, a format whose lure I'm happy to see is fading. Of the other four, I see little reason to choose the Blu-ray-only edition for $1 less than the combo pack. Your choice then comes down to these questions: Are you sure you don't want to ever bother with Blu-ray? What is more important to you: a few DVD extras or a digital copy and Blu-ray? Would you like to own Yogi's '90s Easter special? No version is the clear winner, but the flexible 2-disc combo pack seems like the best deal.

Buy Yogi Bear from Amazon.com: Blu-ray + DVD + Digital Copy / DVD / Blu-ray /
Double DVD Pack / Blu-ray 3D + Blu-ray + DVD + Digital Copy / Instant Video

Buy from Amazon.com

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Yogi Bear Songs List (in order of use):
Weird Al - "Lasagna"
Plain White T's - "Rhythm of Love"
Sir Mix-a-Lot - "Baby Got Back"
Michael Franti & Spearhead - "The Sound of Sunshine"
"Also Sprach Zarathrustra"
Orchestral Academy of Los Angeles - "William Tell Overture"
Tom Cavanagh - "Rachel's Song"
Poison - "Nothin' But a Good Time"
Airbourne - "Runnin' Wild"
John Williams - "Theme from Superman"
Journey - "Don't Stop Believin'"
Weezer - "My Best Friend"

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Reviewed March 24, 2011.



Text copyright 2011 DVDizzy.com. Images copyright 2010 Warner Bros. Pictures, Sunswept Entertainment, De Line Pictures, Rhythm & Hues,
and 2011 Warner Home Video. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.