30 December 2010

BAD MOVIE SHOWDOWN

It's rare outside of summer to get two movies released in such close proximity to one another that look so grueling as the live-action/animation hybrid Yogi Bear and the Jack Black vehicle Gulliver's Travels. Both promised to be as vile and unlikable as anything Hollywood has shat out in 2010, and there seemed to be a real possibility of the pair of them jockeying for the title of the year's worst film. Being of a scientific mind, I could think of only one way to determine which of the two was the graver insult to the dignity of the art of cinema: DEATHMATCH!.

Which is the worst? Let's find out!

PLOT
Yogi BearGulliver's Travels
A talking brown bear with a yen for stealing picnic baskets in Jellystone Park becomes the only hope of saving his home from a venal mayor planning to sell logging rights to cover his town's budget shortfall.A pudgy loser who works in the mailroom at a New York newspaper, trying to impress the pretty travel editor, takes a trip to the Bermuda Triangle, and finds himself lost on an island full of tiny people, and becomes a hero thanks to his size and willingness to lie about himself.

Winner:* Yogi. The story of Gulliver's Travels is an impressive wreck, particularly once the pretty travel editor also ends up stranded on Liliput, but there is nothing on earth as wheezy as the "evil land developer" plot.


DEVIATION FROM SOURCE MATERIAL
Yogi BearGulliver's Travels
The arid Hanna-Barbera cartoons consisted of nothing but Yogi trying to steal food from tourists, which could never support a feature, but the bear's motivation remains constant, at least. It is surprising, perhaps, that he is not more of an active protagonist - Ranger Smith is almost more of a main character - but given how unpleasant is the sight of lovingly-rendered cartoon bears interacting with actors, it's probably just as well.Another Gulliver adaptation that stalls out after just one of the four travels (though I was stunned that Brobdingnag puts in a cameo appearance), but the real insult is the modernisation, which involves copious slang, video game references, and a general Jack Blackness to all the humor, jarring unpleasantly with the Regency-era Liliput. Also, Gulliver fights a mecha to win the war with Blefuscu. And yet, they did not see fit to change his first name from "Lemuel".

Winner: Gulliver, no contest. Yogi is a sad attempt to spin 80 minutes out of a cartoon that was already shitty at 8 minutes, while Gulliver defangs one of English literature's most iconic works of satire and replaces its wit with Star Wars jokes.


CAST
Yogi BearGulliver's Travels
Dan Aykroyd as the voice of Yogi, Justin Timberlake as the voice of Boo-Boo (shockingly, Timberlake is infinitely funnier and closer to the original character), Tom Cavanagh (TV's Ed) as Ranger Smith, Andrew Daly as the venal mayor, Nate Corddry as his venal aide, colorless rising comedy star T.J. Miller.Black, of course, plus a packed roster of B- and C-listers, including Billy Connolly, Jason Segel, Amanda Peet, Catherine Tate, Chris O'Dowd, and colorless rising comedy star T.J. Miller.

Winner: A push. Yogi's cast is objectively worse, but there's more delight in watching the semi-famous folk in Gulliver foundering. Plus, both feature the character acting of colorless rising comedy star T.J. Miller


CAST MEMBER YOU'RE EMBARRASSED FOR
Yogi BearGulliver's Travels
Anna Faris, as a documentary filmmaker in love with Ranger SmithEmily Blunt, as the princess of the Liliputians, in love with a sad-sack commoner

Winner: Gulliver. At this point, none of us can afford to be so thin-skinned that seeing the marvelous comedienne Faris playing below her talents offends us, while Blunt is essentially reprising the performance from The Young Victoria that netted her a spot in the Oscar buzz conversation last year.


SCATOLOGICAL/GROSS OUT JOKES
Yogi BearGulliver's Travels
Talk of Boo-boo's toxic flatulence, a mention of urination in bears' courtship rituals, Yogi snorting a grub out of his nose, Yogi mentions rectal thermometers, Anna Faris recalls using bird shit as ink, and I am fairly sure that there's at least one other shit joke I've forgotten.A Liliputian disappears up Gulliver's ass, plus the "piss out the fire" scene present in the novel.

Winner: Yogi. One does not get the feeling that the Gulliver team came to play.



GHASTLY POP MUSIC NUMBERS
Yogi BearGulliver's Travels
Yogi and Boo-Boo try to prove that they can entertain the campers by shaking their moneymakers to "Baby Got Back"; they later water-ski to Poison's "Nothin' But a Good Time"; Journey's "Don't Stop Believin'" makes its union-mandated appearance.Gulliver ends the Lilput/Blefuscu conflict by - a propos of nothing - leading a massive dance-in to a Black cover version of Edwin Starr's "War".

Winner: Yogi, but only just, and solely thanks to its 3-to-1 advantage. Nothing in either movie made me so utterly unhappy as the "War" scene in Gulliver.


NITPICKY COMPLAINT THAT SHOULDN'T HAVE BOTHERED ME, BUT IT DID
Yogi BearGulliver's Travel
National Park Service areas cannot be redistricted by municipalities for agricultural use.The technology level of the Liliputians is all over the map; Gulliver, an idiot mail sorter, brings electricity to the island; in thanks for peeing on the castle, the king builds him a house (in one week!) large enough that it probably cost the GDP of the country for several years.

Winner: Yogi. Though Gulliver certainly has a number of tiny, stupid holes that keep poking up, Yogi's entire plot is based on an utter fallacy.


GARISHNESS OF 3-D
Yogi BearGulliver's Travels
Food is spat directly at the screen not once, but twice; a turtle exists for apparently no reason other than to project parts of himself towards the camera; most of Yogi's plots for stealing picnic baskets involve moving parts that thrust toward the camera like knives.Indifferently post-converted, such that many scenes barely register as 3-D whatsoever, and in most places where it does register, Black appears more fully dimensional than the Lilputian cardstock figures composited in with him.

Winner:To be honest, I'm not sure which approach is the more contemptible.


GENERAL UGLINESS
Yogi BearGulliver's Travels
Boo-Boo's unnaturally detailed eyes and both bears' soft but insubtantial fur will haunt my nightmares; but at least the human actors' resolute inability to match eyelines with the CGI characters gives the whole thing a surrealist patina that almost makes it all tolerable.Other than the terrible compositing, terrible post-process 3-D, lifeless and flat lighting, and the inexplicable sense that Black's entire body has been lightly Photoshopped, it's no worse than any hack project.

Winner: Yogi. In fairness, it is not more hideous than the trailers have been promising for months.


BEST GAG
Yogi BearGulliver's Travels
No funny gags as such, but Timberlake's nervous straight lines are often good for a a wry grin.Catherine Tate's incredibly obvious desire to have sex with Gulliver.

Winner: Gulliver. Yes, I did say that was its "best" gag.


TIMELESS MESSAGE FOR YOUR CHILDREN
Yogi BearGulliver's Travels
Don't let other people keep you from following your own drummer; be nice to the environment; feed wild bears.The pretty girl definitely likes you. And if you lie to her to get her attention, she'll forgive you, on account of your awesome pop culture knowledge

Winner: Gulliver. We really don't need more of those stories, and Yogi's heart is in the right place, though I wouldn't take the wee ones to Denali right afterward.


THE CHAMPION: Marmaduke. Sorry, boys, but if you want to play in the big leagues, you'll need to master the elegance of opening and closing your movie with matching jokes about a dog farting and being smug about it.

Yogi Bear: 2/10
Gulliver's Travels: 2/10

5 comments:

John Holdun said...

Oh yes.

Robert Hamer said...

You forgot to mention the loser of this whole competition: us.

chiaroscurocoalition said...

Yogi Bear wins for spawning this:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m6w0r-ScEG4

The.Watcher said...

Hell yes, more like this!

adampb said...

Everyone should read this Yogi Bear review:
http://io9.com/5714801/in-yogi-bear-jellystone-park-is-district-9-for-bears

As for this, well, I can't say I'm happy with the fact that you gave both these flicks money for the privilege of mocking 'em, but I like the fact that you took the time to link to the IMDB page for Star Wars, just in case anyone was curious what all that was about.

Happy New Year Tim, I don't comment much but I do enjoy your thoughts.

- Adam