Dan Aykroyd is the new voice of Yogi Bear. Apparently many people tried to send him voice tapes of Daws Butler, the original Yogi Bear, but Mr. Aykroyd declined to listen to any of them. He wanted to create his own character. Good for him. But Aykroyd trying to play Yogi Bear sounds like Walter Matthau doing a parody of himself. Oh, well; unintended consequences and all that.
His sidekick, Boo Boo, is the voice of Justin Timberlake, but this movie works because of the casting of the “real” people interacting with the animated characters on the screen: Tom Cavanaugh as Ranger Smith is just the right mix of nice guy and flustered suitor and frustrated park ranger; Anna Faris is sweet on the outside but with an inner tenacity, T.J. Miller as Ranger Jones is the only character who actually develops, and Andrew Daly as Mayor Brown is just as oily and officious as we would expect him to be. It seems the mayor, desperate to raise funds for a deficit budget, has agreed to re-zone the park as commercial, allowing loggers to cut all the timber.
Yogi Bear, normally a rascally stealer of picnic baskets, focuses his “smarter than the average bear” talents to team up with the “good guys” and save the park. No surprise there. But the fun, of course, is in getting there: the sight gags for the kids, the funny throw-away lines for the adults, the feel-good bonhomie of it all.
Sure, it’s silly, and terminally cute. But it just might tap into some old cartoon nostalgia, as the Baby Boomer grandparents are proudly introducing their young grandchildren to a sweet little story connected to a more innocent time.
RONALD P. SALFEN is pastor of Grace Church, Greenville, Texas.