Yogi Bear

December 17, 2010 by  
Filed under Reviews

Starring: Dan Aykroyd, Justin Timberlake, Anna Faris
Directed by: Eric Brevig (“Journey to the Center of the Earth”)
Written by: Jeffrey Ventimilia (“Tooth Fairy”), Joshua Sternin (“Tooth Fairy”), Brad Copeland (“Wild Hogs”)

As beloved as William Hanna-Joseph Barbera’s TV cartoons have been since the late ’50s, their recent resurrection as live-action/CGI-animated feature films has been hugely disappointing. Somewhat inspired casting choices like John Goodman as Fred Flintstone in “The Flintstones” and Matthew Lillard as Shaggy in “Scooby-Doo” (zoinks!) were spot on, but the films themselves were a firm reminder that without a competent script, nostalgia can only get you so far.

With “Yogi Bear,” another of these bizarre live-action/CGI hybrids, Warner Bros. aims their attention at a new generation of indiscriminate four-year-olds unfamiliar with the short-lived animated spinoff of the early ’60s. While the simplistically-drawn “Yogi Bear Show” only aired 35 episodes over two seasons, it’s considered a classic in the Hanna-Barbera canon.

In the new film version, which is the first picture not to be produced in some capacity by either creator (Hanna passed away in 2001, Barbera in 2006), the basic premise of the original cartoon remains the same. Yogi (Dan Aykroyd doing his best impression of comedian Rodney Dangerfield), along with his faithful sidekick Boo Boo (Justin Timberlake, whose take on the pudgy little bear is about as wonderfully wussy as his role in “The Social Network”), spend their time in Jellystone National Park evading Ranger Smith (Tom Cavanagh) and stealing campers’ “pic-a-nic” baskets. The troublemaking duo becomes the park’s main attraction when a filmmaker (Anna Faris) chooses them as the subject for her next nature documentary.

Jellystone can use all the publicity it can muster. The town is going bankrupt and a corrupt mayor (Andrew Daly) wants to sell the park to a company planning to cut down all the trees (cue an unoriginal green message and a plot centered on zoning regulations). Penned by three screenwriters, whose less-than-stellar credits include “Tooth Fairy” and “Wild Hogs,” and directed by longtime special-effects whiz Eric Brevig (“Total Recall”), “Yogi Bear” wears thin even at a merciful 82 minutes, which includes an unfunny, outdated dance sequence to Sir Mix-a-Lot’s “Baby Got Back.”

Yogi can still refer to himself as “smarter than the average bear” if he’d like, but his movie hardly supports the self-description. Instead, “Yogi Bear” joins other brainless live-action/CGI combos of the last decade like “The Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle,” “Alvin and the Chipmunks,” and “Garfield” to become yet another forgettable addition to the dullest of kid-friendly fare.

Journey to the Center of the Earth

July 3, 2008 by  
Filed under Reviews

Starring: Brendan Fraser, Josh Hutcherson, Anita Briem
Directed by: Eric Brevig (debut)
Written by: Michael D. Weiss (“The Butterfly Effect 2”), Jennifer Flackett (“Nim’s Island”), Mark Levin (“Wimbledon”)

It’s usually hard to sell a movie with 3-D special effects without thinking it’ll be nothing more than gimmicky concepts and designs. You can hardly be blamed for the pre-notion when the visual technique was popularized in the 80s and attached to a number of second-rate movies.

In “Journey to the Center of the Earth,”  however, the digital technology, which has improved immensely over the last few years, is such a major element of film, the computer-generated risks just happen to work much better than the story itself.

Based on Jules Verne’s book of the same name, “Journey to the Center of the Earth” screenwriters of this newest film version decide not to actually adapt the book like the 1959 movie, but rather incorporate it into the story. The actual book is one of the belongings given to geology professor Trevor Anderson (Brendan Fraser), which belong to his late brother, a scientist in his own right.

Left to take care of his young nephew Sean (Josh Hutcherson) for a few days, Trevor discovers some notes his brother scribbled in the margins of the novel that could possibly lead to a major discovery. The doorway to this scientific breakthrough happens to be in Iceland, the location where Sean’s father disappeared during his last mission.

So, off the duo goes to explore the great unknown with the help of Hannah (Anita Briem), a lively guide who directs them through dangerous passages of the Icelandic volcanoes. Of course, this isn’t your ordinary tour through a few harmless walking trails. The group finds this out when the cave they are trapped in collapses and they begin freefalling to the Earth’s core.

The real 3-D adventure finally begins once they reach their destination and left to fend for themselves against giant piranhas, man-eating plants, and, of course, an ornery Tyrannosaurus Rex hunting for some human grub. (Ignore the yo-yo scenes tossed in at the beginning for no good reason).

The effects are amusing if you have your shades on, but there’s really no reason to see “Journey” if you’re not watching it in 3-D format (2-D versions will also hit theaters). While the story is fast-paced and the effects fun, novice director Eric Brevig (the amazing special effects guru behind “Total Recall”) can’t steer clear of the corny dialogue and one-dimensional (how ironic) characters. While everything is literally jumping out at you from the screen, “Journey” screenwriters actually forgot to include something to return the favor and reel us in.