that should have stayed buried under a rock pile down at Fred and Barney’s
quarry. Six years ago Universal and Amblin Entertainment hoisted the box office
flag with the first live action version of popular 1960s animated television
series. Although The Flintstones became the fifth best grossing film of 1994 (over
$358 million worldwide!), lightning shouldn’t strike twice as the latest
variation lays the equivalent of a big, fat dinosaur egg. Of course, marketing
conditions can often make mountains out of mole hills -- look at Congo.
Commercially successful or not, this film is a brontosaurus-sized bore. Producer
Bruce Cohen (American Beauty), in his
first effort with partner Dan Jinks, takes whatever bounce was in the original
and flattens it with leaden humor. For most adults this will be a prehistoric
letdown, although kids will probably tolerate it, attracted to the primary color
production design, computer generated imagery, and the lowbrow jokes.
My advice: Run, digitally-enhanced Dino, Run.
Food for comparison: Butch
Cassidy and the Sundance Kid grossed nearly $100 million in 1969 dollars.
Bravo. Ten years later saw the leaden prequel, Butch and Sundance: The Early Days, belly flop at the box office as
fans of the original (and we are many) stayed away in droves. Final box office?
Less than $5 million.
“You mean they made a sequel?”
No, I said prequel, which is exactly what the producers
have done with The Flintstones in Viva
Rock Vegas. Bad scripting and lesser-name casting did the dirt on B&S:
The Early Days. History appears to be repeating itself in this journey to
time before civilization. The cheapo recipe:
Take stars John Goodman, Elizabeth Perkins, Rick Moranis, Rosie
O’Donnell, and Elizabeth Taylor (as Fred, Wilma, Barney, Betty, and Wilma’s
Replace them with Mark Addy (The Full Monty), Kristen Johnston (Sally Solomon from NBC’s Third
Rock from the Sun), Stephen Baldwin (the other brother), Ally
McBeal’s Jane Krakowski, and Eighth-Wonder-of-the-Overdressed-World Joan
Collins doing her Cruella-De-Vil impersonation.
Arrange for cast to reinvigorate those quaint Bedrock characters in a
bright, pre-prehistoric predecessor with a storyline bordering on the asinine
and characters as charming as cement. (Someone forgot to hire competent
scriptwriters; see above for the guilty credits).
Bring aboard original director Brian Levant, who scored well with the
original and Beethoven, but was also
responsible for the abominable Problem
Child 2 .(Yes, that’s a sequel.)
Toss in weak sight gags, dreadful attempts at borscht belt humor, and a
handful of wisecracks that die on impact or explode weeks ahead of time.
Example: Fred attempting to compliment Wilma: “Your eyes are like…two big
eyes.” The prerequisite flatulence, drag, gay, and ugly sister jokes all
Addy and Baldwin play Barney and Fred as if they were
lame-headed Ralph Kramden and Ed Norton imitations. The two hardworking
knuckleheads with bubbly personalities and limited brain power intentionally
come off as carefree comic book pawns in love with Stone Age sweeties. Hey if
you like that kind of stuff, candy-coated, take this film --
please. In a patented attempt to precivilize the simpleminded narrative,
the writers use one contrived notion after another, even to the point of
aggressively pushing Universal’s theme park attractions. Red-headed, black
eyebrowed Kirsten Johnston is klutzy Wilma Slaghoople, the young heiress and
daughter to Colonel (Harvey Korman) and Pearl (Joan Collins), who wants nothing
to do with her parents’ millions or the caddish, polo playing Chip Rockefeller
(Dharma and Greg’s Thomas Gibson in
a role wasting his comic talents) being foisting on her. Wilma flees the family
mansion and bunks with Betty O’Shale (Krakowski), a Bronco King waitress
unaware of her roommate’s upper-crust underpinnings. The future Flintstones
and Rubbles meet, love blossoms, petty jealousies follow, and then there’s
that dastardly (well, not really) plot by Chip to rob and/or wed Wilma (ain’t
that the American way!) to pay off Rock Vegas mobsters.
Poor Alan Cumming garners double duty as a green,
foot-tall alien (The Great Gazoo, sent to Earth, à la What Planet Are You
From?, to observe human mating rituals) and a glorified, thick-lipped rock
star (Mick Jagged). What he really needs is another class reunion with Romy and
Dumbed-down movies (generally featuring Adam Sandler and Jim Carrey) can work. But in the hands of those that packaged this dim-witted effort, there’s nothing funny in Bedrock. Pray The Flintstones in Viva Rock Vegas tanks, dare we find ourselves six years from now mired in another messterpiece, The Flintstones Meet the Fossilized Baby Geniuses. For those of you who wasted good money today for a boringly bad time, you’ll have no one else to blame. Caveat emptor.