The Flintstones in Viva Rock Vegas
2000, PG, 91 min. Directed by Brian Levant. Starring Thomas Gibson, Harvey Korman, Alan Cumming, Joan Collins, Jane Krakowski, Kristen Johnston, Stephen Baldwin, Mark Addy.
REVIEWED By Marc Savlov, Fri., May 5, 2000
There are worse ways to spend 90 minutes of your time, I suppose, than by taking in the new live-action Flintstones prequel. A sudden tax audit, a root canal, a horde of soldier ants carousing atop your privates -- all of these would surely be worse, yes … but not by much. Like so many others, I spent hours glued to my parents' old Zenith, glazed gaze held in check by Fred and Barney and Wilma and Betty. (Of course, I also got off on Hong Kong Phooey and Sigmund and the Sea Monsters, so let's allow that my critical faculties had yet to develop to their current level of cynical bastardism.) In all seriousness, though, William Hanna and Joseph Barbera's knowing take on the old Honeymooners sitcom was a pretty ripe premise when the show debuted during NBC's 1966 season, and one that continues -- in syndication -- to this day. Try saying that for The Godzilla/Hong Kong Phooey Hour and you'll see what I mean. And of course it's not much of a stretch to say that without the foresight (or is that hindsight?) of The Flintstones we might not have the Simpson clan today. Animation is animation, though, and that goes double for Saturday morning cartoons like The Flintstones. Trying to impose cartoon realities on live-action actors -- and vice versa -- works about as often as Snuffy Smith and isn't half as pretty. The automatic humor we took as kids is subverted, sometimes to unintentionally surreal and disturbing effect, by the sudden intrusion of real-life physics. Hand-painted cel animation backgrounds have to be translated into their three-dimensional Hollywood counterparts: poorly painted Styrofoam boulders and jarringly out-of-place sound effects. It's all too much. Cartoons are magical things, lightning quick, amazingly fluid, and utterly to the point. There is no padding in the manic, slapdash smashup of Wile E. Coyote and an Acme anvil. In The Flintstones in Viva Rock Vegas, there's not much else. The original live-action cast -- John Goodman, Rosie O'Donnell, and the rest -- have decided to sit this one out, perhaps out of concern for not only their legitimate careers but also for the love of the source material. Instead, we have The Full Monty's Addy as Fred, and the other Baldwin brother, Stephen, as a vaguely ADD-addled Barney Rubble. A prequel, Viva Rock Vegas takes up before the quartet has officially met and married. Wilma's a poor little rich girl on the run from a tyrannical mom (Collins) and Betty works as a carhop at the local Bronto-King (as one of the most repellent marketing tie-ins yet, it's clearly Burger King in disguise -- apparently the younger demographic is never too young to be bludgeoned into the role of good consumers). To make a very long story very short, they all go to Rock Vegas and fall for each other, with complications. There's a few solid gags (interstellar gadabout The Great Gazoo opens his ship by uttering the classic sci-fi line “Klaatu Borada Nikto”) and one very odd one (a grizzled member of the band “The Rolling Stone” mutters a Ron Woodish “How old are you again?” to his teenybopper date), but for the most part this is mind-fryingly bad juju. Tellingly, even the youngest members of the audience appeared to be more interested in their dwindling soda supply than anything up on the screen. Yabba dabba doom.