In 1994, on a Delta Airlines flight from Fort Lauderdale, Florida to Newark, New Jersey, I noticed something interesting about the distinction between paying more for first class and paying less for coach.
"The Flintstones" was playing on the separate wall-mounted screens in first class and in coach. The curtain divider nearest to me was left open and I saw that the colors being projected on the first-class screen were more brilliant, while the colors on the coach screen were muted, and faded. I never figured that in addition to the other amenities of first class, whatever they may have been, you pay for better movie-viewing standards too.
With the years that have passed, my memories of actually seeing "The Flintstones" on that flight only extend to that, and for the most part, are as faded as the colors on the movie screen in coach. The one memory that comes to mind is of a journal entry I wrote after arriving at my paternal grandparents' house in Paramus, about the flight, and mentioning that at the end of "The Flintstones," Fred announces that he and everyone else with him will go out for breakfast, "steak and eggs," as I wrote it in my journal. I was 10 years old then and now I've found out that I misheard him. I blame the headphones, which weren't adept at blocking out all of the in-flight noise, namely the altitude.
No matter, as it turns out. Seeing "The Flintstones" now, at a later age and with a far different mindset, I'm not angry at the shoddy story or the incredibly bad puns used to highlight the fact that we're in the Stone Age. The movie is fairly harmless. Younger kids can watch it today and rise up to better movie standards later in their life. I'm just disappointed at all the possibilities that are wasted in many of the scenes and especially of the actors that aren't used in favor of those who do what they can with the material, but ultimately flounder.
The story is jolted forward when Barney Rubble (Rick Moranis), grateful to Fred Flintstone (John Goodman) for putting up a sizable amount of money so he and Betty (Rosie O'Donnell) can adopt a kid, switches tests with him at the Slate Rock & Gravel Company. It's an exam designed to anoint a new vice president at the company, but mainly so the devious Cliff Vandercave (Kyle MacLachlan) can have someone on which to pin his crime of embezzlement. Fred wants to be somebody and with Barney's effort, Fred becomes that somebody, and gets his own office and a nameplate and a personal secretary, Miss Stone (Halle Berry). If you look at the role now from the perspective of the career Halle Berry has had so far, it fits her. A big-budget movie promising big exposure. You've got to do what you can to make it, and she did.
Miss Stone is actually associated with Cliff, just as involved with the scheme because the golden end result is living with all those clams in Rocapulco. Yes, Rocapulco. There are other puns just like that, but I've mercifully forgotten them. MacLachlan is mildly interesting whenever he's onscreen. There's a moment where he's irreverent about what Barney asks him regarding quarry workers in "Pit 6" losing their hair that doesn't feel like satire today.
The other moment just as good for Cliff is when he references his mother, which is rare when it comes to any villain. It's nice for once to get a piece of background, even when the villain isn't all that fleshed out. Not much reason for him to be, I suppose, when the focus is on Bedrock and the Flintstones and the Rubbles and all the accoutrements of that day and age, but nastiness should at least be a little more entertaining.
The cast of John Goodman, Elizabeth Perkins, Rick Moranis, and Rosie O'Donnell as the Flintstones and the Rubbles is only big enough to make you think, "Hey, that's John Goodman playing Fred!" "Wow, Rosie O'Donnell's really got Betty's giggle down."
With the source material of this movie being so iconic in the history of television, comparisons can't be stopped. Certainly in some respects the TV series is far better than what the movie offers. Mostly all of it, since you can get a lot more variety there and at least the storylines are shorter, rather than the script for this which went through the minds of 32 writers, from 1987 to 1993, before it finally went into production.
When Fred and Wilma start living the high life and treating Barney and Betty as if they were lower than them, it's necessary to wonder how the Flintstones could easily throw away 20 years of friendship just for the material things. That is the point that director Brian Levant tries to make with the vivid sets, but really. Logic just gets thrown out here. If Fred had been at least a little suspicious of earning so much so fast, rather than fully embracing it, then we would have had something.
Most unfortunate is how many actors are wasted in favor of this story of badly drawn-up class distinctions. There are two in particular, Richard Moll as Hoagie and Irwin Keyes as Joe Rockhead, who are given only a few minutes because of their faces. Keyes looks like a genuine caveman, and in those few moments, you may have to pause just to look at him in amazement. They're both members of the Water Buffaloes, to which Fred and Barney also belong and you'd think they could be given expanded roles. There's more story in their faces than there is in this entire film.
I know that all of the above is too much to expect from a movie basically made for kids, but consider that Elizabeth Taylor, the legend herself, appears as Wilma's snobbish mother, Pearl Slaghoople. All she's good for is to hurl insults at Fred, and that's probably all director Levant wanted. If you watch the extra features on the DVD, you'll find that Levant is a huge fan of "The Flintstones" and owns seemingly tons of memorabilia. Perhaps for him, this was all about just making certain aspects of the show become real, under his control, as he remembers it and would like other people to remember.
There's at least a small comfort in knowing that six years after this, Levant made "The Flintstones in Viva Rock Vegas," a prequel which got everything right, from Betty played by Jane Krakowski and a more accurate giggle, to Alan Cumming as the Great Gazoo, and especially Stephen Baldwin as the better Barney. Much better. Once he laughs, he's absolutely his animated counterpart come to life. Considering the script in the prequel, it's not an overwhelming improvement, but at least there's more entertainment than what's offered with this one, which rates a 3 out of 10.