I had to see Yogi Bear. My curiosity was just too damn loud and insistent. And here is why:
Yogi Bear is a premise, not unlike Wile E. Coyote’s neverending battle with his slippery foe, the Roadrunner. In fact, there is a CGI Roadrunner and Coyote cartoon in front of Yogi Bear in a sad pastiche of the Pixar short film tradition, and it is Awful. But as Yogi Bear is a premise that is patently plotless, an overconfident bear repeatedly stealing campers’ picnic baskets to the chagrin of the local head ranger, I did not see how the screenwriters coul possibly stretch this into a ninety minute feature.
In my studies, I’ve learned a great deal about the basic three act Hollywood film structure. Almost every film follows them; upwards of 96% of the ones made in America, I would say, and the majority of those made abroad, as well. It is this on which our conception of “plot” is formed. A basic three-act Hollywood screenplay contains what is known as a “main tension”- this carries us through to the end of the second act, and perhaps the third. The “main tension” arises out of a “conflict” between two parties. This can be man vs. man, man vs. himself, man vs. society, man vs. moose, and so on. This “main tension” arises from an “inciting incident”, which occurs usually in the middle of the first act and sends the characters on their journey fueled by this “main tension” conflict.
This is the trailer I saw most often:
Now, based on this trailer and what we know about the basic three-act structure, I was baffled; what could the plot of this movie possibly be?
I had to know.
I told Nella of my fixation on what the plot could possibly be, based on the marketing. She astutely guessed that the plot would most likely involve the three main characters, Yogi, Boo Boo and the Ranger having to save the park from some sort of catastrophe, and that it would be somehow tied in with the Ranger getting his love interest. I hypothesized that Yogi’s picnic basket stealing prowess would come into play in saving the park in the third act. Turns out we were both right; it is devastatingly easy to give plot to a plotless thing if you know how the formula works. After all, they somehow thought they could spin off the Geico caveman into a half hour sitcom, though look how that turned out. The only thing that surprised me was the fact that the film employs the rare third act MacGuffin; usually a MacGuffin is introduced in the first act and pushes us through to the second act, but nooooooo. We’re so lazy, what’s at stake doesn’t even show up until the end.
Don’t let me mince words; this movie was awful. Like, so bad it wasn’t even fun, like a Roland Emmerich movies (his movies are always bad, but fun!) So bad it made my brain go dumb and we couldn’t word good no more. But at least… um… actually, there is no but. I fell into a depressed funk after that because of those precious 83 minutes I would never get back, and I didn’t even pay to see the damn thing. All I can say is that it helped sharpen my understanding on how you can give anything, and I mean anything, a “plot”, however flimsy, if you understand that basic formula. I think that’s why we end up with so many bad movies these days.