The story for “The Flintstones in Viva Rock Vegas” has about as much complexity as any of the classic 60s Hanna-Barbera animated episodes. The problem is that it’s hard to sustain a 22-minute cartoon plot over a 91-minute feature, but the filmmakers give it their best shot.
Fred Flintstone (“The Full Monty”‘s Mark Addy) and Barney Rubble (played by “The Usual Suspects'” star and king of bad direct-to-video fare, Stephen Baldwin) are new graduates of the Bronto Crane Academy. The two roommates are living in a stoneage version of a trailer park, but find they are missing something. Fred and Barney are visited by the Great Gazoo, the pointy-nosed tiny green martian who is sent to observe human mating rituals. The tiny Gazoo (played by British comedian/actor Alan C*****g) prompts the two Neanderthals to seek female companionship. We also meet Wilma Slaghoople (Third Rock from the Sun’s Kristen Johnson) who was born with a silver spoon in her mouth. Wilma just wants to get away from her snooty and domineering mother who is played by the still sultry Joan Collins. Wilma meets up with Betty O’Shale (played by Ally McBeal’s Jane Krakowski) who works at the malt shop as a waitress. The two quickly become friends and meet up with lunkheads Fred and Barney. After a successful double date, the couples are mad about each other, but Wilma has kept her rich relatives a secret from her new friends. When Wilma invites Fred, Barney and Betty over to her mansion, the three stand out painfully among Bedrock’s high society folk. Fred wants to give Wilma a ring but finds it far too small to ever impress anyone of her stature. After a cool reception at the mansion, the foursome is invited to stay at a hotel in Rock Vegas by Wilma’s conniving ex-boyfriend Chip Rockefeller. Chip (Thomas Gibson) has other plans – he’s going to break up Fred and Wilma if it’s the last thing he ever does! Mwa-ha-ha-ha-ha! Prehistoric puns, along with hilarity, ensues.
This origin tale is cute, we meet baby dino and we even find out how Wilma got her gaudy pearl necklace, but the plot gets as old as a dinosaur turd pretty darn quick. That’s not to say that the film is a total disaster. In fact, much of it is actually kind of fun. When I say “fun”, I mean the kind of fun that still makes me laugh when I hear myself fart. The kind of low-brow fun that is simple and innocent.
Sure, we can argue about the weak story, but here’s a list of some of the upsides for this second Flintstone outing:
1) The cast. John Goodman and Rick Moranis were okay in the first film. The casting of Rosie O’Donnel as Betty could not have been more wrong. These stars are not missed. This new foursome of actors actually seems to work harder at making you believe they are the human incarnations of the cartoon characters. Stephen Baldwin has Barney’s “Heh-huh” laugh down perfect — it’s as if he were born to play the boneheaded Rubble. Mark Addy has Fred’s mannerisms and voice inflection down cold. Kristen Johnson is an innocent goofball as Wilma but it’s Betty’s blue dress that turns up the heat. Jane Krakowski as Betty is just plain hot. Wow, Betty is hot! Man, I’d give her Wilma’s pearl necklace if I could.
2) The effects. There are about five times as many digital effects shots and they’re refreshingly clever. From dinosaur highways, to pteradactyl airlines, to television remotes powered by flying birds, there’s a lot of eye candy to chew on when the plot becomes a bore. And the digital effects used to create the Great Gazoo are just plain odd-looking. Imagine this teeny-tiny cartoon body with a large head — it’s effective and funny which helps a lot since the green guy doesn’t say one humorous thing in the whole movie.
3) Did I mention that Betty is hot?
If you’re expecting an Empire-Strikes-Back-like improvement over the original, don’t waste your time. But if these reasons make you want to see the Flintstone sequel, you won’t be disappointed. Ultimately, this new Flintstone film is not a total disappointment and its eye-popping special effects and gimmickry will go a long way toward entertaining anyone under the age of ten. So, in a way, this stone-age film makes a great 21st century babysitter.