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'The Flintstones' (PG)

By The Washington Post
May 27, 1994

Unless you've been living in a cave, you're aware that "The Flintstones" is the flick kids want to see this summer. This live-action recycling of the '60s cartoon about a modern Stone Age family should be a sure thing: It's fondly familiar to boomers raised on "Flintstones" reruns and vitamins, and to their kids, helplessly in the path of the hurricane of hype, the hundreds of tie-in toys and products. But it's no "Jurassic Park" -- primitively plotted, glacially paced, "The Flintstones" has a heart of stone. The "RocDonald's" ads are funnier.

Kids will demand to see it anyway, of course, but it's hard to imagine anyone staying interested long in the stale story line about Fred's job and office politics.

After Fred (John Goodman) lends Barney (Rick Moranis) the clams to adopt wild-child son Bamm-Bamm, Barney pays his best pal back by secretly switching aptitude tests at work, self-sacrificing his higher score so Fred will win the big promotion from the bronto-crane in the gravel pit to vice president at Slate & Co.

But in a plot line swiped from "The Hudsucker Proxy," Fred's new job is a sham, set up so bad guy Cliff Vandercave (Kyle MacLachlan) and his slinky secretary Rosetta Stone (Halle Berry) can embezzle company funds. Meanwhile, as Fred and Wilma (Elizabeth Perkins) get used to the high life, their best friends become caveless, reduced to Rubble.

Goodman's Fred Flintstone is indistinguishable from Roseanne's hubby, and even his ordinarily screen-filling presence is lost and dwarfed by the vast locations. Moranis barely registers as buddy Barney and Perkins makes an irritatingly whiny Wilma. Rosie O'Donnell fares best as Betty Rubble -- her perfect re-creation of Betty's titter gets the movie's first real laugh -- but as in the cartoon, poor Betty doesn't get much to do. "The Flintstones" wakes up whenever Elizabeth Taylor appears as Wilma's overbearing mother, Pearl Slaghoople.

The special-effects sight gags and prehistorock puns come thick and fast -- starting with a producer credit for "Steven Spielrock." And all the gimmicks from the Hanna-Barbera cartoon are here: the foot-powered cars, the dino-gadgets (a prehistoric porker under the sink serves as a garbage disposal, for instance), Dino and sabretooth Kitty, animated by Jim Henson's Creature Shop. And the puns -- Fred and Wilma celebrate his promotion with a swank night at Cavern on the Green (where the "BC"-52's are the entertainment); the local drive-in is showing "Tar Wars"; and Wilma and Betty watch soaps like "The Young and the Thumbless."

Get the picture? Directed by "Beethoven's" Brian Levant, "The Flintstones" is a $45 million design problem with 98 minutes of weak prehistoric jokes. The "stone"-shtick gets mighty old after about 15 minutes. More than 30 screenwriters worked on the "Flintstones" script, and the result just proves the ancient saying about too many cooks.

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