The Flintstones (1994)

"Squealer." - John Goodman to a wart-hog.

Forget the critics. Just go.  If the very first scene-- a dusty quarry
filled with giant boulders and earthmoving dinosaurs-- doesn't fill you
with a giddy gross of riant recognition, then you're probably in the
wrong film. THE FLINTSTONES is an immensely enjoyable all-ages
attraction that's the first true treat of the summer.

Remember Fred (John Goodman)?  He's that hearty, blue-collar bloke who
spends his days in a quarry and his nights in an (bowling) alley. As the
film opens, his day is nearly done and, astride his 'sauris, he's ready
and waiting for the 5 o'clock bird.  Watching from afar is Cliff
Vandercave (Kyle MacLachlan), a young exec who's scheming with his
secretary (Halle Berry) to steal funds from the firm.  All Cliff needs
to get rich quick is to find the perfect patsy...

John Goodman is probably the closest we'll come to a man called
Flintstone. His enthusiasm is bigger than his shirt size (no small feat
there!) and, though he never gets the accent quite right, he's the
obvious anchor of the film. But he's not the focus. THE FLINTSTONES is
an ensemble effort with a barefoot cast that works overtime to be as
obviously appealing as Goodman.

Elizabeth Perkins is the best of the rest. She nails her role of Wilma
square on the red-head, right down to her priceless delivery of the word
"Frad!" Less effective are the Rubbles. Rick Moranis plays Barney dumber
than his cartoon counterpart, but he's still more believable than Rosie
O'Donnell, passable but all wrong as Betty. Hee hee hee hee.

Remaining roles include Elizabeth Taylor, looking good and sounding
great as Fred's mother-in-law, Halle Berry as the seductive secretary
Sharon Stone, and Harvey Korman as the voice of a persnickety
"dict-a-bird." Living cartoons Jay Leno, Richard Moll, and Jonathan
Winters also make appearances. And watch for cameos from William Hanna
and Joseph Barbera.

THE FLINTSTONES isn't as manic as one might expect and you can blame
director Brian Levant for that. The happy helmer never tries too many of
those Barry Sonnefieldish tricks that made RAISING ARIZONA and ADDAMS
FAMILY VALUES such perfect cartoons.  His camera stays still, but, with
so many gags *already* in the film, any lack of tricky technique goes by
almost unnoticed.

The writing, done ala "round table" despite three "official" credits, is
great. Steven Spielrock and Company have unearthed every stone-age pun
possible and then some. Sample dialogue from Fred:  "There's 4,000
people in the world!  Who needs the Rubbles?"

The production design is equally rich and boasts more background gags
than a Zucker/Abrahams/Zucker film. A newspaper reads "All the news fit
to chip." A drive-in theater shows George Lucas' "Tar Wars." And, best
of all, a stone-age Warhol hangs on the wall at Slate and Co.

With so much obvious effort both before and behind the camera, THE
FLINTSTONES is surprisingly clunky. The climax is rickety and many other
scenes seem shortened. Were the producers afraid to take a good thing
too far?  Running a mere 92 minutes, THE FLINTSTONES should be more
seamless than it is.

Since the entire film is a special-effect, some things look better than
others. The props are all foam, of course, but the dinosaurs are real--
and I mean *real*-- and that's what counts in Bedrock.

The music, by David Newman, incorporates both songs and cues from the TV
show.  "The Twitch," performed by the renamed BC-52's, adds a
sixties-flavor that isn't needed. (Male-dominated households
notwithstanding.) How about Jurssaic grunge from Seattlerock?  (Sorry.)

NOTE:  Gripes to Pleasant Valley *and* Six Forks Station Cinema for a
double-dose of sucky sound. PV forgot to start their surround-sound or
laser-sound or whatever-passes-for-sound on screen 3. Six Forks, on the
other hand, has a recurring problem on screen 2 that distorts
higher-frequency speech and music.  Sigh.

BOTTOM LINE:  If you like the Flintstones, you'll like THE FLINTSTONES.
This working-class comedy about a modern stone-age family is fine fare
for any age. You'll have a gay, old time.

Grade: B

Copyright 1994 by Michael J. Legeros

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