×

The Flintstones

Kids of all ages hungry for this summer's dinosaur picture will be more than satisfied with "The Flintstones." This live-action translation of the perennial cartoon favorite is a fine popcorn picture for small fry, and perfectly inoffensive for adults. The strong shoulders of its star, the heavy promotional campaign and household-name title will carry Universal to brontosaurian B.O.

With:
Fred Flintstone -John Goodman Wilma Flintstone - Elizabeth Perkins Barney Rubble - Rick Moranis Betty Rubble - Rosie O'Donnell Cliff Vandercave - Kyle MacLachlan Miss Stone - Halle Berry Pearl Slaghoople - Elizabeth Taylor Mr. Slate - Dann Florek Hoagie - Richard Moll Joe Rockhead - Irwin (88) Keyes Grizzled Man - Jonathan Winters Dictabird - Harvey Korman

Kids of all ages hungry for this summer’s dinosaur picture will be more than satisfied with “The Flintstones.” With all manner of friendly beasts, a superenergetic John Goodman and a colorful supporting cast inhabiting a Bedrock that resembles a Stone Age version of Steven Spielberg suburbia, this live-action translation of the perennial cartoon favorite is a fine popcorn picture for small fry, and perfectly inoffensive for adults. The strong shoulders of its star, the heavy promotional campaign and household-name title will carry Universal to brontosaurian B.O.

Watching this fast-paced, advisedly brief confection is akin to taking a quick spin on the Universal Studios tour with a detour through the City Walk attraction, so loaded is it with technical gizmos, showbiz in-jokes and product plugs. In a day when popular movies have more in common with theme parks than old-school artistic traditions, this one fits right in.

This film’s use of at least a dozen writers, of whom only three receive final screen credit, was widely reported, and choice of a storyline involving embezzlement is slightly puzzling given the 7-year-old target audience. Millions of kids will be learning the word for financial trickery if they ask mommy and daddy about it during unspoolings.

Inside humor is tipped from the outset, as opening title announces a “Steven Spielrock” presentation. First reel will keep tykes’ eyes popping, as the cast of dinosaurs is introduced in rapid succession along with the human characters.

There are giant reptiles working in the rock quarry where Fred Flintstone (Goodman) and his buddies toil, and dog-and-cat-like pets at home. Fred paddles his car along with his outsized feet and takes his family to the drive-in to see George Lucas’ “Tar Wars.”

Much of the imagination poured into the pic — production design by William Sandell and his team, the costumes by Rosanna Norton and the special-effects details by many hands — is exhausted very quickly. Bedrock is a town of slanting rock roofs with animals that wash dishes with their trunks and “Bedrock’s Most Wanted,” hosted by Jay Leno, playing on Stone Age TV.

Fred, of course, is the happy, rock-solid working man, thick of bicep and skull, who shockingly wins a promotion out of the rock pile and into the executive suites of Slate & Co. when his best friend Barney Rubble (Rick Moranis) substitutes his own exam answers for Fred’s. The boss (Kyle MacLachlan) and his foxy secretary (Halle Berry) easily manipulate the lazy simpleton for their own financial ends, setting him up for a big fall as they plot to make off with ill-gotten gains.

Meanwhile, at home, Fred manages to get in hot water with his sprightly wife Wilma (Elizabeth Perkins), whose mother (Elizabeth Taylor) keeps harping about how Wilma could have done a lot better in her choice of husband, and still might do so. After lightly going through the motions of a plot, it all ends up in the quarry, where assorted machinery provides the excuse for a parade of slapstick gags and amusement park-like predicaments that seem mostly lumbering.

After the initial pleasure of seeing a cartoon world reinvented for live action, and well known toon characters becoming flesh and blood, there is little to really compel great interest, but the slew of filmmakers have come up with enough contempo references, little jokes and bits of business to keep things busy.

Pic centers very squarely on Goodman, and he brings tremendous energy and enthusiasm to the role of Fred. It’s no insult to say that he’s quite credible as a caveman, and it’s hard to imagine that anyone else could so plausibly convey both the cartoonlike and everyman qualities most needed for the role.

Other performers take a relative back seat but are also well cast. Perkins, Moranis and Rosie O’Donnell are perfectly fine as Wilma, Barney and Betty Rubble. MacLachlan is suitable as the hissable yuppie villain, and Berry is slinky as his seductive aide-de-camp. Given that it requires her almost exclusively to complain about Fred, the mother role brings out Taylor’s coarse side, although she looks beauteous in her first screen appearance in some time and amusingly ends up in the mouth of a dinosaur. Harvey Korman does very nicely providing a talking bird with an aristocratic voice.

For adults, one significant point of interest here is that the ostensible attitude of this money machine of a movie, which is so loaded with highly calculated marketing and product plugs, is pro-working stiff and anti-big business. Such are the paradoxes and contradictions of capitalism.

Jokiness extends to the final credits, which feature Flintstone-related tunes in rap, reggae and Sex Pistols styles.

Popular on Variety

The Flintstones

Comedy -- Color

Production: A Universal release of a Steven Spielrock presentation of a Hanna-Barbera/Amblin Entertainment production. Produced by Bruce Cohen. Executive producers, William Hanna, Joseph Barbera, Kathleen Kennedy, David Kirschner, Gerald R. Molen. Co-producer, Colin Wilson. Directed by Brian Levant. Screenplay, Tom S. Parker, Jim Jennewein, Steven E. de Souza, based on the animated series by Hanna-Barbera Prods.

Crew: Camera (Deluxe color), Dean Cundey; editor, Kent Beyda; music, David Newman; production design, William Sandell; art direction, Jim Teegarden, Nancy Patton, Christopher Burian-Mohr; set design, Paul Sonski, Elizabeth Lapp, Erin Kemp; set decoration, Rosemary Brandenburg; costume design, Rosanna Norton; sound, Charles Wilborn; special visual effects, Industrial Light & Magic; animatronic creatures, Jim Henson's Creature Shop; assistant director, Marty P. Ewing; casting, Nancy Nayor. Reviewed at Universal Studios, Universal City, May 6, 1994. MPAA Rating: PG. Running time: 92 min.

With: Fred Flintstone -John Goodman Wilma Flintstone - Elizabeth Perkins Barney Rubble - Rick Moranis Betty Rubble - Rosie O'Donnell Cliff Vandercave - Kyle MacLachlan Miss Stone - Halle Berry Pearl Slaghoople - Elizabeth Taylor Mr. Slate - Dann Florek Hoagie - Richard Moll Joe Rockhead - Irwin (88) Keyes Grizzled Man - Jonathan Winters Dictabird - Harvey Korman

More Film

  • Writers vs Agents Packaging War WGA

    Writers Guild Boosting Efforts in Project Development Amid Agency Standoff

    The Writers Guild of America, locked in a six-month standoff with major talent agencies, has announced that it’s boosting efforts at gathering TV, streaming and film project development data to help members find new employment opportunities. The WGA made the disclosure in a message to members on Monday. The guild directed its 15,000 members to fire [...]

  • Fernando Meirelles The Two Popes

    AFI Fest Adds 'The Two Popes,' 'Aeronauts,' Alan Pakula Tribute

    The American Film Institute has added “The Two Popes” and “The Aeronauts” as galas during the upcoming AFI Fest along with a tribute to the late director Alan Pakula. AFI had previously announced that the romantic drama “Queen & Slim” would launch the 33rd annual festival on Nov. 14 and close with the world premiere [...]

  • Julie Andrews

    Julie Andrews Recalls Husband Blake Edwards' Battle With Depression

    The line to see Julie Andrews at the 92nd Street Y wrapped around the square of a sprawling New York City block. Seventy years since the start of her career, 60 since she asked “Wouldn’t It Be Loverly?” as Lerner and Loewe’s first Eliza and 50 since she sang “The Sound of Music” before the [...]

  • Bloodshot (Vin Diesel) in Columbia Pictures'

    Vin Diesel Comes Back to Life in 'Bloodshot' Trailer

    Vin Diesel is coming back again and again in Sony Pictures’ first trailer for “Bloodshot.” In the forthcoming superhero adventure, Diesel portrays Ray Garrison a.k.a. Bloodshot, a soldier who gets rebuilt by a corporation following his death. The clip, released Monday and scored to Johnny Cash’s rendition of the ballad “Memories are Made of This,” [...]

  • Bouli Lanners Teams With 'Peaky Blinders'

    Bouli Lanners Teams With 'Peaky Blinders' Director Tim Mielants on 'Wise Blood'

    Bouli Lanners, the Belgian actor-director of “The Giants” and “Eldorado,” is teaming with “Peaky Blinders” helmer Tim Mielants to direct “Wise Blood,” an English-language film that will star “Game of Thrones” actor Michelle Fairley and Julian Glover. “Wise Blood” is a Belgian-Scottish-French co-production between Versus Production, Barry Crerar, and Playtime, which will handle international sales [...]

  • Bombshell Charlize Theron Megyn Kelly

    'Bombshell': Why Charlize Theron Was Terrified of Playing Megyn Kelly

    Charlize Theron is getting some of the best buzz of her career for channeling Megyn Kelly in “Bombshell,” but the Oscar-winning actress admits she almost turned down the role. “I was shit scared,” Theron said during a question-and-answer session following a Manhattan screening of “Bombshell” on Sunday. Partly, she was worried about portraying someone who [...]

  • Sean Hayes and Todd Milliner's Hazy

    Sean Hayes and Todd Milliner's Hazy Mills to Co-Produce SAG Awards

    Sean Hayes and Todd Milliner’s Hazy Mills Productions have joined the SAG Awards producing team. The guild announced this morning that Kathy Connell will once again serve as the show’s producer along with Hayes and Milliner in partnership with Avalon Harbor. “Attending the SAG Awards has always been a pleasure and a privilege for me,” [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content