The Flintstones (film)
Theatrical release poster by Drew Struzan
|Directed by||Brian Levant|
|Produced by||Bruce Cohen|
|Based on||The Flintstones|
by William Hanna and
|Music by||David Newman|
|Edited by||Kent Beyda|
|Distributed by||Universal Pictures|
|Box office||$341.6 million|
The Flintstones (also known as The Flintstones Movie or The Flintstones: The Live-Action Movie in the working title) is a 1994 American comedy film directed by Brian Levant and written by Tom S. Parker, Jim Jennewein, and Steven E. de Souza. It is a live-action motion picture adaptation of the 1960–1966 animated television series of the same name. The film stars John Goodman as Fred Flintstone, Rick Moranis as Barney Rubble, Elizabeth Perkins as Wilma Flintstone, and Rosie O'Donnell as Betty Rubble, along with Kyle MacLachlan as a villainous executive-vice president of Fred's company, Halle Berry as his seductive secretary and Elizabeth Taylor (in her final theatrical film appearance), as Pearl Slaghoople, Wilma's mother. The B-52's (as The BC-52's in the film) performed their version of the cartoon's theme song.
The film, shot in California, was theatrically released on May 27, 1994, and earned almost $342 million worldwide against a $46 million budget, making it a huge box office success, despite earning negative reviews from critics. Observers criticized the storyline and tone, which they deemed too adult and mature for family audiences, as well as the casting of O'Donnell as Betty and Taylor as Pearl, but praised its visual effects, costume design, art direction, and Goodman's performance as Fred.
In prehistoric suburban Bedrock, Slate & Co.'s new vice-president Cliff Vandercave and secretary Miss Sharon Stone discuss their plan to swindle the company of its vast fortune and flee, and that they need one of their employees to be responsible for it. Fred Flintstone loans his best friend and neighbor Barney Rubble money so that he and his wife Betty can adopt a child named Bamm-Bamm, who can only pronounce his own name. Although the child is initially difficult to control due to being raised by mastodons, as well as having super strength, he eventually warms up to his new family. Barney vows to repay his friend. Despite his mother-in-law Pearl Slaghoople's objections, Fred's wife Wilma remains supportive of his decision.
Cliff holds an aptitude test, where the worker with the highest mark will become the new vice president of the company. Barney gets the highest score but he switches his paper with Fred, who he knows will fail. Fred receives the promotion, but his first order is to dismiss Barney, since Barney now effectively has the lowest score. Fred doesn't want to fire him, but Cliff tells Fred if he doesn't fire him, he will fire Barney for him and Fred will be fired too. Fred reluctantly but willingly accepts, but does his best to help Barney support his family, even inviting the Rubbles to live with them so that they can rent out their home. However, Fred's job and newfound wealth put a strain on his relationships with Wilma and the Rubbles. Cliff eventually tricks Fred into dismissing the workers, over the objections of his office Dictabird. Later, Barney confronts Fred after seeing worker riots on the news revealing that he switched tests with Fred and the Rubbles move out, despite having nowhere to live. Wilma and Pebbles also move out to her mother's house, leaving Fred behind.
Fred goes to the quarry and realizes his mistake and Cliff's plan, but also finds out that Cliff has manipulated events to make it look as if Fred stole the money, and has reported it to the police. A manhunt for Fred ensues by the police and the workers. Wilma and Betty see this on the news, and break into Slate & Co. to get the Dictabird, the only witness who can clear Fred's name, unaware that Cliff saw them from his office window. As Fred attempts to enter a cave where the workers are seeking refuge, they see through his disguise and attempt to hang him. Barney is almost hanged as well after he admits his part. Fred and Barney reconcile, but before they can be hanged, Wilma and Betty arrive with the Dictabird, who tells them the true story. The workers release Fred and Barney after realizing that Cliff was the one who fired them.
Cliff kidnaps Pebbles and Bamm-Bamm and demands the Dictabird in exchange for the children's safe return. Fred and Barney confront Cliff at the quarry, where Cliff has tied Pebbles and Bamm-Bamm to a huge machine. Though they hand him the Dictabird, Cliff activates the machine to stall them. Barney rescues the children while Fred destroys the machine. The Dictabird escapes from Cliff and lures him back to the quarry, where Miss Stone knocks him out, having had a change of heart after learning that Cliff was planning to betray her. The police, Wilma, Betty, and Mr. Slate arrive and Cliff attempts to flee, but he is petrified by a substance falling from the machine.
With the Dictabird's help, all charges against Fred are dropped, while Miss Stone is arrested as Cliff's accomplice, though Fred is confident she will be granted leniency for helping them stop Cliff. Impressed with the substance that Fred inadvertently created by destroying the machine, Mr. Slate dubs the substance "concrete" in honor of his daughter Concretia and makes plans to produce it with Fred as the president of its division, thus ending the Stone Age. Having realized the negatives of his wealth and status as the new CEO, Fred declines and asks that the workers be rehired and given the job benefits he initially set out to achieve, which is granted. As the Flintstones and Rubbles have finally made amends, Fred and Barney get into a humorous quarrel when Fred once again asks Barney for a small amount of money for breakfast.
- John Goodman as Fred Flintstone
- Rick Moranis as Barney Rubble
- Elizabeth Perkins as Wilma Flintstone
- Rosie O'Donnell as Betty Rubble
- Kyle MacLachlan as Cliff Vandercave
- Halle Berry as Miss Stone
- Elizabeth Taylor as Pearl Slaghoople
- Mel Blanc (archive audio) as Dino: Blanc previously supplied the voice of Barney and Dino in the original animated series.
- Elaine & Melanie Silver as Pebbles Flintstone
- Hlynur & Marinó Sigurðsson as Bamm-Bamm Rubble
- Elizabeth Daily (uncredited) as the voice of Bamm-Bamm Rubble
- Dann Florek as Mr. Slate
- Richard Moll as Hoagie
- Irwin Keyes as Joe Rockhead
- Jim Doughan as Maitre d'
- Harvey Korman as the voice of Dictabird: Korman previously voiced the Great Gazoo in the original animated series.
- Jonathan Winters as Grizzled Man, a co-worker of Fred and Barney's
- Jack O'Halloran as Yeti
- The B-52's as The BC-52's
- Jean Vander Pyl as Mrs. Feldspar: Vander Pyl previously voiced Wilma and Pebbles in the original animated series.
- Laraine Newman as Susan Rock
- Jay Leno as host of Bedrock's Most Wanted
- William Hanna as a boardroom executive
- Joseph Barbera as a man driving a Mersandes
- Sam Raimi as Cliff Vandercave look-alike
Development and writing
In 1985, producers Keith Barish and Joel Silver bought the rights for a live-action feature film version of The Flintstones and commissioned Steven E. de Souza to write a script with Richard Donner hired to direct. De Souza's script was eventually rejected and Mitch Markowitz was hired to write a script. Said to be a cross of The Grapes of Wrath, Markowitz commented that "I don't even remember it that well, but Fred and Barney leave their town during a terrible depression and go across the country, or whatever that damn prehistoric thing is, looking for jobs. They wind up in trailer parks trying to keep their families together. They exhibit moments of heroism and poignancy". Markowitz's version was apparently too sentimental for director Donner, who disliked it. Eventually, the rights were bought by Amblin Entertainment and Steven Spielberg who, after working with Goodman on Always, was determined to cast him in the lead as Fred. Brian Levant was hired as director, knowing he was the right person because of his love for the original series. They knew he was an avid fan of the series because of his Flintstones items collection and the knowledge he had from the series.
When Levant was hired, all previous scripts were thrown out. Levant then recruited what he called an "all-star writing team" which consisted of his writer friends from television shows such as Family Ties, Night Court, and Happy Days. "This is a sitcom on steroids", said Levant. "We were just trying to improve it." Dubbed the Flintstone Eight, the group wrote a new draft but four more round table sessions ensued, each of which was attended by new talent. Lowell Ganz and Babaloo Mandel took home a reported $100,000 for just two days work. Rick Moranis was also present at Levant's roundtables, and later described the film as "one of those scripts that had about 18 writers". The effects for Dino, Dictabird, and the other prehistoric creatures were provided by Jim Henson's Creature Shop while most of the film's CGI effects were provided by Industrial Light & Magic after Levant was impressed by their work on the dinosaurs in Jurassic Park (another Universal/Amblin production released the previous year).
Actors John Candy, Jim Belushi, Dan Aykroyd, Bill Murray, and Chevy Chase were all considered for the role of Fred Flintstone. the last four actors were all deemed too skinny and a fat suit was deemed too inappropriate to be used. Goodman felt he was "sandbagged" into the role of Flintstone years earlier at the table read for the film Always, when Steven Spielberg announced, "Ladies and Gentlemen, I'd like to say something before we start: I've found my Fred Flintstone." Goodman said it was "not a role I was looking forward to doing" but said the experience was "fun." If Goodman had turned the role down, the film would not have been made. Geena Davis, Faith Ford, and Catherine O'Hara were all considered for the role of Wilma. Elizabeth Perkins won the role. Danny DeVito was the original first choice for Barney, but he turned down the role as he felt he was too gruff to do the character properly and reportedly suggested Rick Moranis for the role. DeVito was also considered for Fred Flintstone. Although Janine Turner was considered, Rosie O'Donnell won the role of Betty Rubble with her impersonation of the cartoon character's signature giggle. Both Tracey Ullman and Daphne Zuniga were also considered for the role. Sharon Stone was to play Miss Stone, but turned it down because of scheduling conflicts. The role was also offered to Nicole Kidman. Anna Nicole Smith was also considered. Both Audrey Meadows and Elizabeth Montgomery were considered for the role of Pearl Slaghoople.
On review aggregation website Rotten Tomatoes the film has an approval rating of 22% based on 44 reviews, with an average rating of 3.7/10. The site's consensus states, "The Flintstones wastes beloved source material and imaginative production design on a tepid script that plunks Bedrock's favorite family into a cynical story awash with lame puns." On Metacritic the film has a weighted average score of 38 out of 100, which indicates "generally unfavorable reviews", based on 15 reviews. Audiences surveyed by CinemaScore gave the film a grade B+ on scale of A to F.
On the syndicated television program Siskel & Ebert & the Movies, Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times and his colleague Gene Siskel of the Chicago Tribune gave the film two thumbs down, with Ebert giving it 2.5 stars out of 4 and Siskel giving it 1.5 stars out of 4. They both mentioned that its main story lines (embezzlement, mother-in-law problems, office politics and extra-marital affairs) were storylines for adult films, and ones that children would not be able to understand. However, many critics praised the film's look, faithfulness to the cartoon, Rosanna Norton's costume designs and Goodman's performance. A few reviews were positive, including Time magazine which said "The Flintstones is fun", and Joel Siegel from ABC's Good Morning America and WABC-TV who called the film "pre-historical, hysterical... great fun". In a 1997 interview, Joseph Barbera, co-creator of The Flintstones and co-founder of Hanna-Barbera Productions, stated that, although he was impressed by the film's visuals, he felt the story "wasn't as good as I could have made it."
Despite the negative reviews, The Flintstones was a box office success, grossing $130,531,208 domestically, including the $37,182,745 it made during its 4-day Memorial Day opening weekend in 1994. It performed even better internationally, making another $211,100,000 internationally, for a total of $341,631,208 worldwide, more than seven times its $46 million budget.
O'Donnell won the Golden Raspberry Award for Worst Supporting Actress for her performance in this film. The film also won Worst Screenplay and was nominated for two others: Taylor as Golden Raspberry Award for Worst Supporting Actress (the second performance in the film nominated for this award) and for the film as Worst Remake or Sequel. At the 1994 Stinkers Bad Movie Awards, the film was nominated for Worst Resurrection of a TV Show and Worst Actress for O'Donnell. However, the film also received four Saturn Award nominations, including Best Fantasy Film, Best Costume Design and Best Supporting Actress for O'Donnell's and Berry's performances.
McDonald's marketed a number of Flintstones promotions for the film, including the return of the McRib sandwich and the "Grand Poobah Meal" combo with it, a line of premium glass mugs, and toys based on characters and locations from the film. In the commercials and released items for the Flintstones promotion, McDonald's was renamed "RocDonald's" with stone age imagery, similarly to other businesses and proper names in the Flintstones franchise. The Flintstones: The Movie, a video game based on the film, was developed by Ocean software and released for the Super Nintendo Entertainment System, Game Boy and Mega Drive/Genesis (Sega Channel exclusive) in 1995. In the United Kingdom, Tetley promoted adverts with audio from the film, including mugs starring characters from the film. Jurassic Park, the name of another movie was also seen briefly as a park in the film.
A prequel, The Flintstones in Viva Rock Vegas, was released in 2000. The original main cast did not reprise their roles of the characters, though O'Donnell provided the voice of an octopus who gave massages to younger versions of Wilma and Betty. Irwin Keyes returned as Joe Rockhead, the only cast member to reprise his role from the first film. Despite receiving slightly better reviews than its predecessor, the film was unsuccessful at the box office.
A video game based on the film was released for the Game Boy, Super Nintendo Entertainment System and Sega Channel in both 1994 and 1995 respectively, developed by Ocean Software (SNES), Twilight (GB), Hi-Tech (SC) and published by Ocean Software. In the game, the player takes control of Fred Flintstones and has to rescue Wilma, Barney, Pebbles and Bam-Bam from Cliff Vandercave.
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