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Spoiling the fun ; Film with potential winds up being mostly unbearable

"Yogi Bear" comes flying out of the screen as a pic-a-nic basket sprays its goodies over the audience for the CGI bear to gobble up in slo-mo merriment.

Children squeal and duck. Parents think "We might have something here," and then, well, things go pretty much downhill.

You can't blame Yogi and his buddy Boo Boo for spoiling this picnic. Dan Aykroyd and Justin Timberlake voice the animated characters like the longtime pals they are supposed to be. It's the humans who make all the trouble in Jellystone Park, on screen and off.

Ranger Smith (Tom Cavanagh) and his sidekick Ranger Jones (comic T.J. Miller) think the park's profile (along with Ranger Smith's libido) will get a boost with the arrival of Rachel (Anna Faris), a documentary filmmaker who wants to track the movements of the park's most unusual resident: a brown bear named Yogi, who talks. "They're so unusual," she says. Rachel comes with great forest cred: She has lived with gorillas and snow leopards, and she can make ink out of bird poop and spit (laugh intended here).

Meanwhile, in a plot twist so tired it is painful to even describe it, the crooked and ambitious local mayor decides to sell Jellystone for the logging rights, so he can give every voter a fat check and be elected governor.

To prevent the sale, Ranger Smith has to raise $30,000 in a week. Marketing the park's talking bipedal bears as an attraction doesn't occur to him. A fireworks display does. You can probably guess how that all turns out.

After that blows up in the ranger's face, Rachel comes up with a back-up rescue plan involving a different sort of endangered species, which initiates a few wild chases that will tickle the kids who haven't tuned out during all the nasty political maneuvering.

It's a shame, because Yogi and Boo Boo have a nostalgic sweetness about them that could have made a clever little movie, perhaps centered on one of those huge RV gatherings that parks often host, or one with Yogi using his basket-snatching skills to rescue children in mild danger.

Instead, we have a Ranger Smith who doesn't know whether he's a bad guy (he's anti-Yogi) or good guy (he's pro-park), a dumb-but-not-in-a-funny-way assistant and a love story that culminates with the line "I'm like a genus without a phylum." Even the actors winced at that one.

Yogi delivers one bit of picnic-basket-theft wisdom: "You can't fail if you never stop trying." Someone involved here -- are you there, director Eric Brevig? -- should have listened.

So, final tally: For the kids, Yogi and Boo Boo, three stars; when adult humans are on screen, 0. Too bad we can't hit the fast-forward button in the theater.

e-mail: mmiller@buffnews.com

***

YOGI BEAR    

1 1/2 stars (out of 4)    

VOICES BY: Dan Aykroyd and Justin Timberlake. Also with Tom Cavanagh, T.J. Miller and Anna Faris.    

DIRECTOR: Eric Brevig    

RUNNING TIME: 82 minutes    

RATING: PG for mild cartoon violence    

THE LOWDOWN: Live action and CGI update of the cartoon about the picnic-basket-stealing bear.    

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