Monday, February 3, 2014

The Flintstones


  Taking a one movie hiatus from my impromptu Starship Troopers reviewing marathon, I decided to pop in an old VHS tape, recently acquired from a thrift store. So old in fact, one could call it... prehistoric.  Maybe not literally that old, but those good ol' puns seem to write themselves in this clever, chuckle-filled piece of 90's nostalgia.  Rolling it's way back into my life, straight out of my childhood, last seen some 15-odd years ago... I had almost forgotten all about this odd (not-so-)little movie. The theme song is catchy as ever and The Flintstones are faithfully brought to the big screen in this, live-action, larger than life sitcom presented by... "Stephen Spielrock".  It even says so on the cover. I guess I never really stopped to think how strange this might be to some people. Including people who very well might not have ever known there was a live action Flintstones. Let alone two. However, one can hardly hate on this movie seeing as how it does exactly what you would expect. It is a live action version of the beloved 1960's cartoon. That's more than just a description, it's a summary, and a compliment. Yet basically, this movie is nothing more than a novelty...

  Adapting cartoons into movies was never a solid business. Masters of the Universe didn't fare so well, Speed Racer had mixed reviews, and I could keep listing epic misfires like this for a while. Yet alot of these movies have found a cult following. Speed Racer most notably. I see no reason why The Flintstones can't have it's own quaint little cult following.  It's not a bad movie per se, it's just kind of a puzzling one. I can imagine a lot of money was invested in this movie, and surprisingly it made it back. Yet it received a critical whipping upon it's release. For a long time not even audiences spoke fondly of this movie. Yet as I was digging through some internet forums threads about this movie, I found more people than not defending this movie. Whether it was because of the spot-on casting choices, or purely nostalgic reasons, people were sticking up for The Flintstones.

  As a movie it was never destined to be revered in the annals of famous comedies, nor was it going to pull down any serious accolades for special effects. It was intended to be a piece of nostalgia for fans of the cartoon. A novelty. "Hey look at this! They really brought it to life!" In 1994, fans of the 1960's cartoon would be well into adulthood. I have no doubt many of them thought it was a neat idea, or blasphemous. Yet it seems like the makers of this movie forgot that the cartoon persisted to find a young audience. The children's fanbase was just as big. There were tie-in toys, McDonalds' specials, et cetera. Yet so much of this movie is simply not for kids. It's for the thirty somethings who at the time were around when the cartoon was first airing. The movie's plot would sail clear over any kid's head. Mother-in-law problems? Cutbacks? Getting laid off? Embezzlement schemes? Infidelity? The Incredibles springs to mind as another movie that deals with all this stuff, yet it handles it delicately. With subtle suggestions and finesse.

  Halle Berry in a skimpy bikini crawling across Fred's (played by John Goodman) desk, trying to seduce him isn't exactly something for the whole family to see. This movie is played for laughs, as Fred's tie snaps and curls up, gawking at this seductress crawl about on his desk. You can tell the whole movie has a very grown-up tone. It'd be uncomfortable if I had to watch that with my kids. People would seriously object if that was in the cartoon, and now I know this is one of the reasons my parents had issues with me seeing this as a little kid. I'd say a good 90% of all the laughs to be had, would be lost on anyone under 13. It's a shame then that a movie like this was unavoidably be pandered to all ages. This isn't Disney, folks. A character in the movie actually points that out. He laments, 'I should've signed with Disney, they never would've made me do this'. Much can be said about a lot of content in the movie, though it's not as racy as I'd make it out to be, it's simply not a kids movie either.

  Disney has a knack for blink-and-you'll-miss-it innuendo, yet The Flintstones isn't so graceful. I suppose one could easily make a pun here, likening the movie to a boulder or a rock since neither are graceful either, and if you would laugh at a pun like that, congratulations, you'll probably like this movie too. That's not a bad thing, mind you. I like the movie too. I chuckled to myself as Fred and family went to the drive in, and the sign outside read: "George Lucas' TAR WARS". This movie is all about the pop-culture references, the in-jokes, the innuendo and the puns. OH the puns! They come cheaper than a dime a dozen here, but they're also handled quite well. I'm not too familiar with the director, but he knows how to play the dumbest pun for straight laughs. It works. What more can I say?

  The casting is rather brilliant I think. Goodman is simply the perfect Fred, and Moranis is a spot-on Barney. They both do the voices with ease, as if they'd been practicing for a lifetime. They find a good balance between full-on cartoonish panache and self-aware nods. Rosie O'Donnell as Betty is something of a serious issue... for some people. I thought she did fine. Most complain about the actress being too heavy for the role of such a skinny character. Or that she's a terrible actress and a horrible person. On one hand I get it, I wouldn't want someone I hated playing a character I loved. Yet, A, most of these people simply wanted Betty to have sex appeal, and B, the rest just don't like O'Donnell. I fall into neither category. This movie did not need sex appeal of any sort, and I have nothing against O'Donnell. Elizabeth Perkins as Wilma was great, and the rest of the cast was as well, great. If you wanted to see the Flintstones brought to life, this is the best cast you could hope for. They do amazingly well. All of them seem to really put heart into their roles, whereas this could've been a 'paycheck' movie for some, with phoned in performances. Surprisingly and thankfully, that's not the case.

  If only the Scooby-Doo movie was this good. By comparison, The Flintstones is head and shoulders above it in terms of how faithful it was to the source material. The makers involved seem to have a real affection for the cartoon, yet I wonder why they made it so adult since the cartoon was so innocent. Did they miss the mark? Not entirely, but the movie exists as an oddity. It's too child-like to go in the regular Comedy section of the video store, and too Adult to go in the Family section. Yet, because it's based on a cartoon, it will inevitably go in the Family section. This is an issue for the movie as I believe it's ideal audience is one that would rediscover it now. People my age who remember when this came out in the 90's. People who still get a kick out of these live action cartoon-based movies. A forgiving and nostalgic audience is what this movie deserves, and as it happens, that's the category I fall into. Yabba dabba- d'oh, you know how it goes.

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