This is the second go around for director Brian Levant in trying to capture the spirit of Hanna-Barbara's Flintstones cartoon. This time, the director of the ill-fated Flintstones movie doesn't have the big name cast he attracted with his first feature, but the movie is far more successful at recreating the goofy fun of the cartoon.
That doesn't mean this is a particularly good movie; but doesn't stink, and that's a victory over the expectations game.
This is actually a prequel in which a young heiress named Wilma Slaghoople (Kirsten Johnson of Third Rock from the Sun) runs away from her shallow, pampered life with her domineering mother (Joan Collins) and balmy father (Harvey Korman) to live a more, you might say, bedrock existence.
She is befriended by Betty O'Shale (Jane Krakowski of Ally McBeal) and soon goes on a double date with a couple of quarry workers, Fred Flintstone (Mark Addy of The Full Monty) and his best pal, Barney Rubble (Stephen Baldwin).
When Wilma's mother tracks her down, Fred must not only deal with culture clash, but with an unscrupulous tall dark handsome and rich competitor, Chip Rockefeller (Thomas Gibson of Dharma and Greg). As a show of good will, Chip invites the four to the grand opening of his new casino, and plots to get Fred to rack up gambling debts in order to discredit him in Wilma's eyes.
Like the cartoon (and the Honeymooners on which it was based) this is all kept at a good hearted level because we know Fred only bumbles his way into bad situations because he wants to do nice things for Wilma.
Also like the show, the pace is fast, the puns and cultural references are constant, and there are lots of neat living appliances like a shell nosed vacuum cleaner, a bird powered remote control, an octopus that gives massages, and many other.
Levant gives the whole movie a delightfully cheesy look, kind of a live action version of Hanna-Barbara's cheap animation techniques. But instead of the same three palm trees in the background, followed by a house, etc., Levant fills the screen with lots of eye candy. Even when the plot bogs about an hour in, there is lots to look at.
The actors are fine. Mark Addy is a surprisingly good Fred for a Brit, and Stephen Baldwin has the Barney chuckle down pat. Kirsten Johnson is a spirited Wilma, and Jane Krakowski is mammoth improvement over Rosie O'Donnell as Betty -- who also matches her character's giggle perfectly.
In a dual role as the Great Gazoo, who has been given the lowest job in the galaxy, observing the mating rituals of humans, and as Mick Jagged, rock star, Alan Cumming steals every scene he is in.
Only a few innuendos that most kids will miss, and a couple of instances of mild swearing account for this film's PG rating. Kids under 10 who love the cartoon, are apt to really enjoy this movie. Adults who remember the show with fondness, will find it easier to take than many kiddie matinees they have suffered through.
Maybe this is just a year in which nothing can go terribly wrong with anything that involves the tag Flintstones -- right, MSU fans?