Thursday, February 3, 2011

Yogi Bear

Yogi Bear

I grew up in a weird generational era. I'm too young to have grown up in the era of the mainstream of cartoon icons; I was born to suffer through the secondary money-whoring era of a lot of cartoon icons. I didn't watch the original Scooby Doo episodes as a kid. Instead, I watched the Scooby Doo/Dynomutt Hour rehash and I was at prime Saturday morning cartoon watching age when Scrappy Doo was introduced.

This also holds true with other Hanna-Barberra cartoon icons. I never watched Yogi Bear or Huckleberry Hound or any of those other famous classic cartoons. Instead, I was subjected to the childhood era of Captain Caveman and the Teen Angels, Jabberjaw, The Gary Coleman Show (where a young, jovial animated Gary Coleman played a dead kid sent down from Heaven to do good deeds to try to earn his halo and be released from what I suppose was Purgatory), Kidd Video and Pac-Man. So, basically, as a kid, my first run Saturday morning cartoon shows sucked a lot of dick and I was out of sync with both the classic era of Yogi Bear and Scooby Doo cartoons and the more modern resurgence of cartoons that were no longer limited to just the three networks green-lighting and animated shit to put on Saturday morning because they knew asshole kids like me would watch them despite how awful they were.

So anyhow, my exposure to Yogi Bear wasn't from the original series, but rather from watching him as the captain of the Yogi Yahooeys in the Laff-A-Lympics, where his team would compete against the Scooby Doobies and the Really Rottens. So, I didn't really ever get to see Yogi Bear as a picnic basket stealing bear, but more as a cheerleading team leader in a fucking messed up weird Olympic-esque team sport. Somehow though, I still knew about the picnic-stealing background. It's just one of those weird things that you just universally know. The other thing that I recall about Yogi in those episodes was that his team really underperformed. Most of the episodes resulted in a win by the Scooby Doobies (who had the more popular tie-in programs).

I also recall being so excited as a kid when watching the episode that the Really Rottens won, that I had to call my dad at work to tell him about it. This also taught me an early childhood lesson: that cheating and general malfeasance occasionally wins.

Anyhow, despite not ever actually having seen an episode of classic Yogi Bear as a kid, I still knew going into it that this movie was going to be really, really shitty.

Since I didn't watch the first run Yogi cartoons, I don't know if the voice actor from Laff-A-Lympics was the same one who did the original voice or not. But I still know generally what his voice is supposed to sound like. Dan Ackroyd voices Yogi in this movie. His voice sounds nothing like Yogi Bear's voice.  I am only assuming that they hired him not because of his ability to mimic the Yogi voice, but rather they asked the star of "Doctor Detroit" to voice him because of the excellent acting skills that he has demonstrated in "Caddyshack 2", "Dragnet", "My Step Mother is an Alien", "Sgt. Bilko" and "Blues Brothers 2000". Unfortunately, Dan Ackroyd's acting in Yogi Bear is slightly worse than it was in the movies I just listed.

The movie is really more boring than bad (though it is still plenty bad). But it essentially revolves around Yogi Bear, who everyone accepts as a talking bear (noted by the nature documentary filmer that talking bears are pretty rare) and his escapades as he tries to steal picnic baskets, much to the chagrin as the Park Ranger Smith (who, by the way, I always erroneously thought was named Ranger Rick due to my never watching the cartoon as a kid). Anyway, the mayor of the city that I suppose the Jellystone National Park is in wants to run for governor, but he has bankrupt the city. He comes up with a plan to make money by redistricting Jellystone Park as agricultural land and then selling off the logging rights, which will generate enough income to put the city in the black AND give each person in the city a $1000 check to help influence them in his election for governor. I am assuming all non-city residents in the rest of the state will have to vote for him based on merit and not payoff. Going by the license plates of all of the vehicles in the movie, this is taking place in Montana.

So, anyway, the mayor refers to a legal statute that allows him to redistrict any municipal property that is not generating enough income, thus allowing him to redistrict and sell off logging rights to Jellystone Park, which is approximately $40,000 in the red for this quarter.

As a point of interest, this is a kid's movie that I am describing. Yes, I just spent two paragraphs explaining the mayoral redistricting plans for under-earning public property based on failing projected quarterly earnings. But fear not, high-jinks will shortly ensue!

So, with one week before the end of the fiscal quarter, Ranger Smith realizes that he has to try to push the park's earning potential to quick bring the books in the black. With the help of a nature documentary maker and cold-fish love interest, Ranger Smith decides to make a push for an economic model with reduced season pass admission pricing to entice a fiscal upswing. The movie points out that season passes are usually $50, but they are reducing that to $40 for the special. So Ranger Smith only needs 1000 people to get season passes and he'll be performing in the black and everything will be fine. To entice the market and to serve as advertisement, he purchases a shitload of fireworks for a celebration to lure people in. The movie never gave exact numbers on how much the fireworks cost, but I would assume that it had to be at least a $1000 in fireworks (or, 25 more season passes he needs to sell). One would think that this model serves to show why Jellystone is constantly performing in the red.

However, as the story unfolds two things occur to mess up Ranger Smith's plans. First, this is fucking Montana and I would assume that even owning a house out there is roughly equal to camping in the fucking woods, so there is no real incentive to buy a season pass. And second, Yogi Bear acts like an asshole idiot and ruins the fireworks display and scares away all of the campers before they can purchase their season passes.

So, the mayor, to further stymie Ranger Smith's plans, relocates him out of Jellystone Park. I really don't know the national park system too well, but through all of this, I really thought that a mayor really wouldn't have any jurisdiction over a national park. But whatever. It's a movie for the kiddies, right? So back to the impending budgetary crisis.

The mayor seems to have succeeded in ensuring that Jellystone Park will close its fiscal quarter in the red and can therefore redistrict it to agricultural lands and lease out the logging rights to their business interests, creating a budgetary surplus for his city with a big enough windfall to offer a $1000 stimulus check to everyone in his city. Kid's movie. Remember that.

However, at the last moment, the nature documentary maker discovers that the "pet" turtle that Yogi and Boo-Boo have is actually an endangered (heretofore thought to be extinct) kind of turtle. They race to get the turtle, since proving that it lives in the park will mean that it will become a Federally protected habitat for the endangered creature. However, the mayor's men discover this as well and they race to try to get the turtle first, realizing that if they kill it, then they can continue with their redistricting plans.

Well both sides race to the turtle and find that it is being kept in a picnic basket. Calling on Yogi's expert picnic basket stealing methods (which, up to this point in the movie have all failed catastrophically and has often ended with crushed or destroyed food and basket), he steps up and fortunately steals the turtle in the picnic basket and they end up saving the day and park at the end.

I have a ton of problems with this movie. First of all, why the fuck does a mayor have jurisdiction over a national park? Secondly, if I was fucking bored to tears about the budgetary projections of this quarter's fiscal earnings of the park, then what the fuck was my four-year old supposed to think? Third, while all is well and good for Jellystone Park, the end result is that they never clarified in the movie if the park was still performing in the red, and besides that, the outlying major city will be forced now to declare bankruptcy, which will most likely result in defaulting on pensions of older citizens and a huge gouging of municipal jobs, resulting in fewer police and fire fighters, making the city around Jellystone Park much less desirable and dangerous. And with the loss of municipal jobs, Ranger Smith may find himself out of a job since apparently his position is city-sanctioned and they will replace him with a federally paid Park Ranger.

But finally, my biggest problem comes from the fact that Yogi is celebrated as "saving the day" at the end of the movie. Sure, he got the picnic basket and the turtle, but that shouldn't mean he did anything good. Karmically, he's just even at best. They wouldn't have needed him to get the picnic basket with the turtle in it if Yogi hadn't fucked up the fireworks display. Had he not screwed that up, then Ranger Smith's plan would have worked and he would have gotten enough money to get the budget out of the red and the park would have been both saved AND profitable. However, all Yogi did was in some way atone for his early firework fuck up. And, actually, he was really rather shitty at saving the turtle anyhow. I mean, really everyone had to risk themselves and their lives to get the turtle by the end. With Ranger Smith's plan, the only thing that was at risk was his hands being blown off by the fireworks. And if Ranger Smith's plan had worked, the nature documentary maker woman still would have found the footage of the turtle during her editing, so you would have had the Federal monetary windfall added to a park now operating in the black.

So, Yogi should not have been celebrated as a hero at the end of the film. He was a douche and a fuck up and, really, could have killed numerous people throughout the film by his fireworks fiasco or by his taking the documentary maker and Ranger Smith off of a waterfall at the end of the movie. The only reason why anyone lived was just shit luck.

Again, I never watched the original Yogi Bear cartoons, but the team captain of the Yogi Yahooeys never put his team at such careless risk of life and limb. This Yogi Bear was just a self-absorbed dick.

Molly: (As usual, I'll be transcribing as much as I can from what she says. We're at my computer and I'll be typing up what we are saying as we talk and I'll go back and format it afterward. Her review will be in Q&A form due to her age. She's sitting next to my computer as we do this.) 

Chuckie: What did you think about the movie, Yogi Bear?
Molly: I liked it.

Chuckie: What did you like about it, Pixie?
Molly: Well, um, Yogi and when he thought the planet was a donut and he said, "I don't know who is steering the ship!"

Chuckie: Okay, that didn't really happen like that, but that's fine. What was the movie about, Sweetie?
Molly: Yogi Bear.

Chuckie: Okay, yeah, but what happened in the movie?
Molly: Um, Yogi tried to steal his lunchbox. Well, Yogi tried to steal all of the baskets. Maybe even all of the baskets in the whole wide world.

Chuckie: What did you like about the movie?
Molly: A lot of things.

Chuckie: Like what?
Molly: When they were trying to take the picture. And where the turtle putted his tongue on the man right here. (Molly points to her forehead right above her eye.)

Chuckie: Was there anything you didn't like about the movie?
Molly: Nope.
Chuckie: You liked it all?
Molly: Yup.

Chuckie: What did you think about the 3-D? You took your glasses on and off a lot in the movie.
Molly: Parts of it were a little scary. Who wants a bear coming out of the screen right onto them?

Chuckie: Fair enough. So, did you think that the whole fiscal budgetary plot with the mayor was a little too much for kids to really grasp?
Molly: I don't even know what that is.
Chuckie: Uh, why the bad man was trying to close the park.
Molly: Yeah, grown-ups.
Chuckie: Grown-ups?
Molly: I think grown-ups should only watch that part.

Chuckie: Did you think that the movie was funny, Pixie?
Molly: Yes.

Chuckie: What was funny about it?
Molly: Where the frog turtle put him tongue on him.

Chuckie: Who was your favorite character in the movie?
Molly: The girl.

Chuckie: Really? The one making the nature movie?
Molly: Uh-huh.

Chuckie: Why?
Molly: Because she was the only girl.

Chuckie: So, do you think that the movie played too much from the male's point of view?
Molly: No, but there should be more girls. I'd put Tinkerbelle in it. And Rapunzel, and Barbie and Ariel in it. (Suspiciously, these are all the toys that she has near my computer desk at the moment.)
Chuckie: What would they do in the movie?
Molly: They wouldn't steal baskets, that's for sure.
Chuckie: Okay, but what would they do?
Molly: They'd catch ladybugs in the ground and it would be in 3-D with glasses.

Chuckie: Why did they try to close the park down?
Molly: I don't know. Just because they were mean, I guess.

Chuckie: How did they save the park?
Molly: Because they found the turtle.

Chuckie: What did you think of Yogi Bear?
Molly: He was funny.

Chuckie: Did you think he was bad?
Molly: A little because he would steal picnic baskets without getting permission first and he ruined the fireworks.

Chuckie: What was your favorite part of the movie?
Molly: Where all the fireworks went ka-ploom!
Chuckie: And they nearly killed all of the people on the lakeside beach.
Molly: Yeah, I guess. But they ran away.

Chuckie: What age do you think the movie is best for?
Molly: Fourteen.
Chuckie: Fourteen?
Molly: Mm-hm.
Chuckie: Any other ages?
Molly: Seventeen and twenty.

Chuckie: Why so old?
Molly: Because older kids can watch it too.

Chuckie: But was it good for four-year olds?
Molly: Yeah, but probably better for fourteen year olds.

Chuckie: So, how would you rate this movie, Pixie?
Molly: One hundred fifteen.
Chuckie: Stars?
Molly: No, one hundred fifteen.
Chuckie: Just one hundred fifteen?
Molly: Is that big?
Chuckie: Possibly. Out of how many?
Molly: Fifty-one.
Chuckie: Then, yes, that's a lot.
Molly: Good.
Chuckie: One hundred fifteen what though?
Molly: STARS!
Chuckie: You didn't say stars.
Molly: Yes, I did, Daddy. And anyway, it's always stars. And do you want to know how many moons?

Chuckie: Sure.
Molly: One hundred and eight and seventeen and eighteen. Is that big?

Chuckie: Yeah.
Molly: Then why didn't you say "wow"?
Chuckie: Sorry. Uh, wow.
Molly: That's better.

Chuckie: Who do you think would like this movie?
Molly: Everybody.

Chuckie: Anything else that you want to say about this movie?
Molly: The bad man showed pictures of himself on the screen. Why did he want to be king?
Chuckie: He didn't want to be king, Sweetie. He wanted to be governor.
Molly: What's governor?
Chuckie: It's someone who is in charge of the whole state.
Molly: Oh. Well, he shouldn't be governor since he was a bad guy.

Chuckie: Is that it then, Pixie?
Molly: (Yelling like Ranger Smith.) Yoooooogiiiiiiiiii!!!

So that's our review. I really didn't have any extensive foreknowledge of Yogi Bear before heading into the movie, but I knew it was going to suck. Our viewing experience this late (catching a shitty Christmas release in February) meant that we had the theater almost all to ourselves. The only other person there was some creepy guy in his 30's or 40's sitting in the front row all by himself. We kind of avoided him. I think if you are a creepy pedophile, you should probably time your kid's movie experiences closer to the opening weekend.

I give it a half star out of five stars. The movie is actually more boring that it was bad. This isn't a good thing. The 3-D was, as is the trend these days, pointless and only a means of padding your numbers. The acting was atrocious in the movie and really the plot would appeal more to conservative economists than it would to kids or fans of Yogi Bear.

Molly gives it one hundred fifteen stars out of fifty-one stars and one hundred and eight and seventeen and eighteen moons. She thought it was a good movie and didn't find any real flaws to it, other than the lack of girls. I agree with her, but I don't necessarily think that adding Tinkerbelle, Rapunzel, Barbie and Ariel collecting ladybugs would be the most positive feminist addition to the plot. But it would take more screen time away from Yogi, the mayor and the cardboard ranger and nature documentary maker, so it would still be an improvement.