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Movie Review: 'The Flintstones in Viva Rock Vegas'

Friday, April 28, 2000

By Ron Weiskind, Post-Gazette Movie Editor

Flintstones, meet the Flintstones ...

Been there, done that.

'The Flintstones In Viva Rock Vegas'

RATING: PG, for innuendo and brief language

STARRING: Mark Addy, Stephen Baldwin, Kristen Johnston

DIRECTOR: Brian Levant


CRITIC'S CALL: 1 1/2 stars


Actually, I liked the 1994 live-action movie about the modern stone-age family of TV cartoon fame. It packed lots of energy, offered some clever sight gags and visual effects, boasted a screenplay as solid as a rock and featured the perfect Fred Flintstone -- John Goodman, who is so skilled an actor that he could play Fred with the broadness of a cartoon character and yet give him just enough real feeling to make him endearing.

The first movie re-created most of the cartoon's most famous scenes, its prehistoric gadgets, its indelible characters and locations. So what do you do for an encore?

"The Flintstones in Viva Rock Vegas" comes up with an intriguing idea -- show us how Fred met Wilma, how Barney met Betty. That would allow the filmmakers to use a different, younger cast -- Mark Addy ("The Full Monty") as Fred, Kristen Johnston ("3rd Rock from the Sun") as Wilma, Stephen Baldwin ("The Usual Suspects") as Barney and Jane Krakowski ("Ally McBeal") as Betty.

Still, it's hard not to think of them as the B cast. That's not fair, particularly because they give it their all. Like Goodman, Addy meshes Fred Flintstone with his real-life inspiration, Jackie Gleason in "The Honeymooners," right down to the "hommina hommina hommina." Whichever one he's imitating, he nails the voice.

Baldwin is too tall for Barney Rubble but otherwise he's perfect -- the dumb face, the blond Shemp Howard-style locks falling from the sides of his head and above all, the laugh. It is, after all, what made Betty O'Shale fall in love with him (and vice versa). Krakowski's Betty is as pert as a button. Only Johnston comes off wrong -- she has a wide, scowling mouth that makes me think of Sandra Bernhard instead of Wilma Flintstone, nee Slaghoople.

But their efforts go for naught. Director Brian Levant (he did the first one, too) and screenwriters Deborah Kaplan, Harry Elfont, Jim Cash and Jack Epps Jr. give their performers absolutely nothing to work with.

The plot centers on the romance between working-class Fred and leisure-class Wilma, daughter of the filthy-rich Col. Slaghoople (Harvey Korman borrowing the dotty old man bit from pal Tim Conway) and his ultra-snooty wife, Pearl (Joan Collins, as insufferable as ever). Pearl wants Wilma to marry rich, spoiled Chip Rockefeller (Thomas Gibson), owner of a fancy Rock Vegas casino where he plans to win Wilma by setting Fred up as the fall guy in an evil scheme.

Oh, and the Great Gazoo is also along for the ride. Remember him? He's the tiny alien who is exiled to Earth and spends most of his time bedeviling Fred and Barney. Alan Cumming plays him to the degree that you can portray a special effect. Cumming also doubles as rock star Mick Jagged -- you know, the Stones, get it?

The movie lurches from one story element to the next, lacking the narrative drive of the original. Levant seemed to use up all his good ideas in the first movie, leaving himself to fill the empty spaces with the kind of slapstick that should have gone out with vaudeville.

I knew "Viva Rock Vegas" was in trouble when the movie's first sight gag centered around dinosaur flatulence. Before it's all over, the film indulges in such tired business as a pie in the face, a spit take, Fred doing a cannonball into a swimming pool (with the predictable result), Fred's pet Dino getting dragged across a banquet table filled with food, Fred and Barney in drag.

What is this, the Flintstones or the Three Stooges?

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