The Flintstones, Hanna-Barbera’s classic early 1960s animated comedy series, made its live-action debut in 1994 and it really hasn’t aged very well. In many ways, despite its charmingly retro production design and handsome recreations of many of the iconic visual motifs of the TV series, it feels even more antiquated and old-fashioned than the animated show which spawned it. One of the main problems with The Flintstones movie is that, as a ninety-minute feature, it has to deliver a lot more than a typical twenty-odd minute TV episode where the plots (such as they were) were pretty flimsy and the comedy little better than broad and slapstick. The movie Flintstones has to work a bit harder to entertain its audience for longer and in doing so it tends to stray from the naïve charm of the original and drift into areas that don’t really suit either the characters or the concept.
So, here we find Fred Flintstone (John Goodman, in fairness the only actor who could really make a decent fist of portraying the iconic Fred) over-promoted to the post of vice-president of Slate and Co. in a sneaky embezzlement scheme hatched by current executive vice-president Cliff Vandercave (Kyle McLachlan) and his secretary Sharon Stone (Halle Berry). Fred’s newfound success causes a rift between him and his best friend/neighbour Barney Rubble (Rick Moranis) who, along with his wife Betty (Rosie O’Donnell) has just adopted a precocious child named Bamm-Bamm. Much…well, at least, some…hilarity ensues but it all feels a bit laboured and over-earnest and the script never seems to find the right balance between the anachronistic sight-gags which made the TV series so endearing (Bedrock, you’ll remember, is a vaguely 1960s style US town re-imagined as a bustling Stone Age settlement with a distinctly ramshackle modern society where dinosaurs are pets and work-tools and everyone drives around in cars made of granite pedalled by raw foot-power) and slightly more sophisticated humour aimed at a more adult audience. They’re uneasy bedfellows, to be honest; some of the wordplay and knowing 20th century references are quite wry – Steven Spielrock produces, there are references to Univershell Studios, Bedrock’s fast-food joint of choice is RocDonalds – but story strands about dodgy businessmen, adoption and workplace aptitude tests are hardly the stuff of colourful romp-along family comedy movies, even ones based on fondly-remembered old cartoon series. Yet The Flintstones is cheerfully charming due to the hard work put in by its cast (Elizabeth Taylor makes a final, slightly ignominious screen appearance as the magnificently-named Pearl Slaghoople) and some wonderfully imaginative production design and set pieces mercifully free from the CGI overkill which would undoubtedly dominate a more modern version.
With over twenty writers involved in the script, The Flintstones really should have been a lot faster and a lot funnier, playing to the strengths of the original series rather than muddying its own waters by presenting its real target audience – the kids – with a drab, turgid and uninvolving core storyline which only really comes alive when it reminds us of how much better a cartoon series made three decades earlier was. If you’re thinking of picking up this shiny new Blu-Ray edition of The Flintstones for anything other than nostalgic reasons, we can only offer the following slightly tortuous advice: Yabba-daba-don’t.
Special features: Discovering Bedrock documentary / Director commentary / trailers / production photographs / concept sketches, /opening sequence comparisons
THE FLINTSTONES (1994) / CERT: U / DIRECTOR: BRIAN LEVANT / SCREENPLAY: TOM S. PARKER, JIM JENNEWEIN, STEVEN E. DeSOUZA / STARRING: JOHN GOODMAN, ELIZABETH PERKINS, RICK MORANIS, ROSIE O’DONNELL, HALLE BERRY, KYLE MCLACHLAN, ELIZABETH TAYLOR / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW