2.4 out of 5 stars (Has some good moments, but is overall bad)
“The Flintstones” is one of those cartoons that is clearly a product of its time. It followed Fred Flintstone, his wife Wilma, and their best friends and neighbors Barney and Betty Rubble. I have seen very little of the original cartoon, but I certainly understand why it was popular. As with many cartoons of that time, it would insert adult humor into the dialogue to keep parent’s attention, but have enough slapstick to entertain the kids. It also gave us that now classic theme song that will likely be remembered until the end of time:
The 1990s were a very interesting time for children’s movies. Live action efforts generally failed to connect with anyone outside of the 10-year-old demographic, while animated films were all over the map. However, no decade produced more adaptations of classic TV shows more than the 1990’s. “The Brady Bunch”, “The Addams Family”, and today’s topic, The Flintstones, all received live-action treatment with primarily negative results. Of the adaptations I have seen, I believe The Flintstones to be very close in spirit and characterization to its original source, with a few questionable decisions (Why is Halle Berry all but seducing Fred?) given its desired audience.
The film follows Fred (John Goodman providing likely the best live-action interpretation we will ever get) and Wilma Flintstone (Elizabeth Perkins not given much to do) and their friends and neighbors Barney (Rick Moranis doing a fine job) and Betty Rubble (a miscast Rosie O’Donnell) in the prehistoric land of Bedrock. Fred has just given the cashed-sapped Barney some money so that he and Betty can adopt a baby. Despite not asking for Wilma’s input, she forgives him because of his loyal intentions. If something like this happened in the real world, Wilma would not be so calm about her hubby taking an exorbitant amount of cash without her consent, but this is a world in which dinosaurs and humans coexist, so I’ll let that slide.
Barney gets a way to pay Fred back when their quarry gives an aptitude test to determine a new vice president. Knowing that Fred is dumb as a dino egg, Barney switches tests with him, allowing Fred to become VP and start living large. Unbeknownst to both of them, the test was actually part of an embellishment scheme by Cliff Vandercave (Kyle Maclachlan) and his sensuous secretary Sharon Stone (played voluptuously by Halle Berry) to embezzle a large amount of money and pin it on the new guy. Because I’m sure all children know what embezzlement is.
The greatest strength of this movie is its production design. Everything looks and feels like the television show, something many live-action adaptations seem to throw to the wind. Most of the casting is also well-done. John Goodman makes the perfect Fred, providing the over-masculinized energy of the character while still maintaining likeability. Moranis is fine but forgettable as Barney, but he has surprisingly good chemistry with Goodman, an element that greatly elevates their scenes. Perkins and O’Donnell work decently off of each other, but they don’t get very much to do other than make fun of their husbands and talk about their problems. Though I’ve never been a huge Rosie O’Donnell fan, nor would she have been my first choice for the character, I reminded myself that it could have been worse.
Halle Berry’s role in this movie is to look sexy and provide uncomfortable innuendos for the PG rating. She wears a midriff-revealing dress throughout the film, and her scenes lie somewhere between overly suggestive and flat-out inappropriate for a movie aimed at families. As well, her character is named Sharon Stone (get it?)
To me, the plot is the biggest problem with the movie. I’m not saying that children are unintelligent or that they cannot handle complicated content, but the plot of this film is about Fred getting framed for embezzlement by his employer. I had no idea what Fred had done wrong when I was a kid, nor did I understand that the intent of the laid-off workers was to Hang Fred and Barney near the film’s end. I appreciate a film that can speak to kids and adults on different levels, but this is a film based around a children’s cartoon. It should have a plot that should not have to be explained by their parents.
All in all, The Flintstones has a great production design, mostly well-chosen cast, and enough prehistoric rock puns to satisfy a baby T-Rex, but is weighed down by an odd plot and some surprisingly mature jokes for its supposed target audience. Despite that, I would recommend this if you are a fan of the show and want to see it done decent justice.
Rated PG for Some Mild Innuendos