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(2000) (Mark Addy, Stephen Baldwin) (PG)

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Comedy: In this prequel to the first "The Flintstones" movie, Fred and Barney must overcome various obstacles while dating the women who will eventually become their wives.
Fred Flintstone (MARK ADDY) and his best pal, Barney Rubble (STEPHEN BALDWIN) are two blue-collar, prehistoric workers who've just landed jobs at the Bedrock rock quarry. While Barney is happy with their achievement, Fred isn't because he feels he should be enjoying his good news with an equally good woman by his side.

Across town, Wilma Slaghoople (KRISTEN JOHNSTON) is also unhappy, but for quite different reasons. The beautiful daughter of the Colonel (HARVEY KORMAN) and Pearl Slaghoople (JOAN COLLINS), Wilma can't see herself becoming her mother and living a pretentious and wealthy life. Nor is she interested in marrying Chip Rockefeller (THOMAS GIBSON), a handsome and debonair bachelor who owns much of Rock Vegas, the famous gambling city.

As such, Wilma hits the road and is taken in by Betty O'Shale (JANE KRAKOWSKI), a waitress at the local Bronto King, who believes Wilma to be a poor, "caveless" girl. The two become fast friends and eventually end up going on a double date with Fred and Barney. Soon, the two couples are inseparable, although a disaster at a Slaghoople dinner involving Fred's pet dinosaur, Dino, strains family ties.

Even so, Chip invites the foursome to his casino in Rock Vegas where they, along with The Great Gazoo (ALAN CUMMING), an alien sent to Earth to observe the "mating rituals" of stone age people, arrive and immediately begin having a good time, oblivious to the fact that Chip and his assistant, Roxie (ALEX MENESES), have ulterior motives.

As Chip sets his plan into motion, Fred and Barney must do what they can to get Wilma and Betty back into their lives and good graces, something that becomes rather difficult due to various obstacles thrown their way, including the presence of legendary rock and roll star, Mick Jagged (ALAN CUMMING).

OUR TAKE: 3 out of 10
Back in the heyday of television during the 1950s, there was a little show called "The Honeymooners" that made stars and households names out of its performers who played two working class couples. With one featuring a loudmouthed, boisterous and nearly always complaining bus driver named Ralph Kramden, and the other, his best and more subdued friend Ed Norton, along with their loving wives who put up with them, the show only lasted two seasons and only produced thirty-nine episodes, but it became an instant classic.

So much so, in fact, that the folks at Hanna-Barbera created their own prime time animated version of it, the popular "The Flintstones" series that ran from 1960 to 1966. Designed to play equally to kids and their parents, the show featured two main characters, Fred and his pal Barney, who were essentially nothing but animated versions of Ralph and Ed. As such, the series soon became a big hit and chiseled its way into the psyche of most every baby boomer out there.

Thus, it was no surprise that during the 1990s - the decade of plundering and unearthing old TV shows - "The Flintstones" were rediscovered by Hollywood archaeologists who dug them up, blew off the dust and gave them the big screen treatment in 1994's appropriately titled "The Flintstones."

Featuring some fun sight gags, a good job of casting the live action parts (John Goodman as Fred, Rick Moranis as Barney and the biggest shock, Elizabeth Taylor as Wilma's mother), but not much more, the film nonetheless was a surprise hit over that Memorial Day weekend and went to gross well north of the $100 million mark domestically and more than a third of a billion dollars worldwide.

Not surprisingly, a sequel was in the works but it's now taken six years for it to finally make it to the big screen, following only a handful of sequels to films based on old TV shows (including "Star Trek," "The Brady Bunch" and "The Addams Family"). The questions that then beg to be asked are whether the wait was worth it and whether there was enough material present to fashion another full-length, live-action feature.

In short, the answer to both is a resounding "no." The first sign of trouble should be that none of the original cast members returned to reprise their roles. While it's possible that each and every one of them had other work that conflicted with shooting this picture, the more readily acceptable conclusion is that they read this sequel's script - penned by Deborah Kaplan and Harry Elfont ("Can't Hardly Wait," "A Very Brady Sequel") & Jim Cash and Jack Epps, Jr. ("Anaconda," "Dick Tracy") - and saw the train wreck long before it started coming down the tracks.

While the original series certainly wasn't high art, it was only twenty-some minutes a pop, and thus nowhere near the duration and needs of this nearly ninety minute long film. Much like the many big screen TV adaptations and most of those "Saturday Night Live" skits that become full-length features, the filmmakers here mistakenly believe that the film can get by on just the "hook" of the original series. Unfortunately, impressive sets and decent special effects can only go so far and the plot simply comes up empty once again, as was the case in the original "Stones" film.

As directed by Brian Levant (who helmed the first "Flintstones" film as well as "Jingle All the Way"), the film is all about individual moments and sight gags. From the opening where the standard "Universal" logo has been replaced by "Univershell" to Bronto King and Mick Jagged replacing the more familiar Burger King and Mick Jagger respectively, the picture offers a few funny moments here and there (the best being a prehistoric version of a remote control), but certainly not enough to make up for the lame plot.

Borrowing from most any "rich girl wants to break free from her wealthy family" plotted story, and then throwing in a second half that's rather reminiscent of "Honeymoon in Vegas" (the Nicolas Cage flick where high roller James Caan tries to ruin his romance with Sarah Jessica Parker), the plot is as inert as the many boulders decorating the impressive sets.

The performances and cast decisions for the major roles are a mixed bag and inevitably will draw comparisons to those in the first film (simply because the viewer won't have much else to do while watching this one). Although he hits all of the proper notes and mannerisms, Mark Addy ("The Full Monty," "Jack Frost") isn't as good as John Goodman was in portraying Fred in the first, while Stephen Baldwin ("The Usual Suspects," "One Tough Cop") comes to a draw with Rick Moranis from the original as Barney.

Kristen Johnston ("Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me," TV's "3rd Rock From the Sun") simply doesn't work as Wilma, not only due to her physical size, but also because of the way her character is drawn and then portrayed. On the other hand, Jane Krakowski ("Go," TV's "Ally McBeal") is near perfect as Betty (earlier portrayed by Rosie O'Donnell who had the laugh down pat, but didn't look the part).

The scene-stealer, however, is Alan Cumming ("Titus," "Goldeneye") in the dual roles of The Great Gazoo and Mick Jagged. Although the former part noticeably dries up once the second arrives and the story moves to Rock Vegas (for Las Vegas), Cumming's characterizations are the best the film has to offer.

While it's understood that the film isn't meant to be an Oscar contender and is primarily aimed at kids who will probably enjoy the slapstick shenanigans, fun costumes and overall visual look, it's simply not that good. Forsaking story for sight gags and brief comedic moments, the film simply doesn't have enough of them to compensate for a lame and lackluster plot. Although Fred Flintstone may be best known for saying "Yabaa, Dabba, Dooo," our advice concerning this film is "Yabba Dabba Don't." We give "The Flintstones in Viva Rock Vegas" just a 3 out of 10.

Reviewed April 24, 2000 / Posted April 28, 2000

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