Yogi Bear * 1/2

Genre: Comedy 

Director: Eric Breviq 

Writers: Jeffrey Ventimilia, Joshua Sternin and Brad Copeland, based on characters created by Hanna-Barbera Prods.

Cast: Dan Aykroyd (voice), Justin Timberlake (voice), Anna Faris, Tom Cavanagh, T.J. Miller, Andrew Daly, Nate Corddry

Running Length: 80 minutes

Synopsis: Resident of Jellystone Park and “pic-a-nic” basket stealing bear, Yogi (voice of Dan Aykroyd), together with his younger companion Boo Boo (voice of Justin Timberlake, believe it or not), have been the bane of Jellystone Park’s head ranger, Ranger Smith (Tom Cavanagh). However, when evil Mayor Brown (Andrew Daly) schemes to sell the park to loggers to cover up his misappropriation of city funds, the bears, Ranger Smith and visiting documentary filmmaker Rachel (Anna Faris) must band together to prevent the unimaginable from happening.

Review: Let’s just get this out of the way – if you’re reading this review of Yogi Bear, you’re not the target audience of the movie. This film seems solely intended for viewers below the age of 10, and my guess is that Yogi Bear would be a perfectly fine for these little tots. However, Yogi Bear offers so little for anyone else that any form of recommendation seems a little tenuous. This is not to say that Yogi Bear is a bad movie, just that it’s so mind numbingly bland in every aspect that one wonders what gave this project the green light. 

While Yogi Bear is perfectly fine as a cartoon 50 years ago, the 21st Century update renders Yogi and Boo Boo in computer animation while the rest of the film is live action (although there really isn’t much action to speak of, save one sequence). This pairing does make the computer animation stick out even more, and unfortunately the “real” actors simply don’t put in enough effort to bridge the animation-live action gap. This results in an odd, lifeless mess that makes it painfully clear that each and every scene is done in front of a blue screen. It’s likely that even younger viewers would not be able to suspend enough disbelief to make this work.  

The film’s storyline seems to have been built on the same premise as the ten-minute shorts that used to make up the Yogi Bear cartoon, and it’s little wonder that when stretched out to eight times its original length, the plot of the movie is so wafer-thin and predictable. There are absolutely no surprises to be had, and everything is telegraphed so far in advance that one can almost predict every turn of the plot, including the denouement, 10 minutes after the movie starts. It doesn’t help that the so-called villains are the most two-dimensional and improbable I’ve seen in years, even for children’s films. 

Of course, no one really expects Yogi Bear to be a masterpiece, but the hope that this is more than a 3D money grab for the holiday season is totally dashed long before the end credits roll. Yes, there are some decent (but gimmicky) 3D sequences, and there are a couple of scenes that border on being entertaining, but really, not enough to justify the price of admission (especially in 3D). Justin Timberlake also should be lauded for a spot-on voice characterization of Boo Boo, virtually identical to Don Messick (Dan Aykroyd doesn’t fare as well as Yogi’s “new” voice). The only thing to be thankful for, if you eventually do end up in a cinema watching this movie (hopefully not of your own volition), is that it’s a mercifully short one.   

Rating: * 1/2 (out of four stars)


Nine * 1/2

Genre: Musical

Director:  Rob Marshall

Writers: Michael Tolkin and Anthony Mingella

Cast: Daniel Day-Lewis, Marion Cotillard, Penelope Cruz, Nicole Kidman, Judi Dench, Kate Hudson, Sophia Loren, Fergie

Running Length: 115 minutes

Synopsis: Set in Italy in the 60s, Nine details a week (give or take) in the life of famous Italian film director Guido Contini (Daniel Day-Lewis) who is about to embark on his ninth film project, titled Italia. There is a slight problem – Guido is actually suffering from writer’s block, and despite the production being in place and almost ready to go, not a single line has been written for the screenplay. As he awaits the arrival of his muse, Claudia (Nicole Kidman), who has agreed to appear in Italia, Guido tries to escape the paparazzi and checks into a spa-hotel. Unfortunately, a bevy of women and problems follow – his mistress Carla (Penelope Cruz) shows up, as does his wife Luisa (Marion Cotillard). His marriage with Luisa is on the rocks due to Guido’s philandering, but Guido is desperate to try and keep the relationship alive. Also present is his friend and costume designer Lilli (Judi Dench), who tries to offer her advice to little avail, and American journalist Stephanie (Kate Hudson) who expresses her interest in Guido. Guido also has flashbacks to his childhood, where he meets his mother (Sophia Loren) and observes the erotic dance of Saraghina (Fergie), a prostitute. As the days wear on it soon becomes apparent that Guido is headed towards a breakdown and that the production of Italia may grind to a halt.

Review: It may be Rob Marshall’s second musical-to-movie adaptation (the first being the Academy Award-winning Chicago), but Nine is testament to the phrase “lightning doesn’t strike twice”. Perhaps it’s because Nine the musical is itself adapted from Federico Fellini’s 8½, and like the game of “Telephone”, too much was lost the third time round.

And whilst all the ten songs featured in Nine are big production numbers, the singing is barely passable for most and some of the numbers lean a little too much towards burlesque, actually coming across as being quite sleazy. The songs are not memorable either, and apart from Fergie’s strong performance on “Be Italian” and the totally anachronistic but quite enjoyable performance from Kate Hudson in “Cinema Italiano”, the rest of the songs simply meld into one large burlesque blur.

It doesn’t help that Daniel Day-Lewis is slightly miscast for this role, and despite his totally decent acting, Guido is a very unlikeable protagonist that not many audiences will be able to root for. Coupled with the fact that the women save one – Marion Cotillard has the only meaty female role and does a good job in portraying Guido’s long suffering wife – are one-dimensional walk on roles, seemingly only there to up the glam and sexiness factors, the whole film is thus comprised of famous faces with barely passable singing voices playing unengaging characters. That is as far from a winning formula as it could possibly be, and the result is clear. Watching Nine is akin to watching paint dry – a terribly soporific experience, and even the song and dance numbers only help to alleviate the tedium momentarily.

Rating:  * ½ (out of four stars)