The Flintstones (film)
Theatrical release poster,
designed by Drew Struzan
|Directed by||Brian Levant|
|Produced by||Bruce Cohen|
|Based on||The Flintstones created
by William Hanna and Joseph Barbera
|Music by||David Newman|
|Edited by||Kent Beyda|
|Distributed by||Universal Pictures|
|Box office||$341.6 million|
The Flintstones is a 1994 American buddy comedy film directed by Brian Levant and written by Tom S. Parker, Jim Jennewein, and Steven E. de Souza. It is a live-action adaptation of the 1960s 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 (named after a famous actress), 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 at an estimated $46 million budget, was theatrically released on May 27, 1994, and earned over $340 million worldwide, making it a huge box office success despite earning generally 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.
Slate and Co. Senior Executive 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 Mastadons, as well as having super strength, he eventually warms up to his new family. Barney vows to repay his friend, but Fred is visited by his mother-in-law, Pearl Slaghoople, who objects to his decision. However, 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 remembers his promise and switches his paper with Fred, who he knows will fail miserably. Fred receives the promotion, but his first order is to dismiss Barney, since Barney now effectively has the lowest score. Fred 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, the perks of Fred's new job put a strain on relationships, as Wilma catches him in an intimate moment with Miss Stone, and the Rubbles are annoyed by Fred and Wilma's increasingly snobbish behavior. Cliff eventually tricks Fred into sacking the workers, over the objections of his office Dictabird. At a local restaurant 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 plot, but also finds out that Cliff has tricked Fred into thinking that he embezzled the money, Fred attempts to get Mr. Slate to fire Cliff, but Cliff calls 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 and Co. to get the Dictabird, the only witness who can clear Fred. They are, however, unaware that Cliff saw them from his office window. As Fred attempts to infiltrate a cave where the workers are seeking refuge, they see through his disguise and attempt to hang him. Barney shows up, now working as a snow cone vendor, and 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. The workers release Fred and Barney after learning from the Dictabird that Cliff had fired them to frame Fred.
However, Cliff kidnaps Pebbles and Bamm-Bamm, leaving behind a ransom note demanding the Dictabird in exchange for the children's safe return. Fred and Barney encounter 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. 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 planned to betray her. The police arrive with Wilma and Betty and Cliff attempts to flee, but a falling substance petrifies him.
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. Mr. Slate shows up, impressed with the substance that Fred inadvertently created by destroying the machine, dubs the substance "concrete" and makes plans to produce it with Fred as President of its division, thus ending the Stone Age, but Fred declines. Barney protests that this is a great position for Fred and not like the problems of before, but Fred explains to Mr. Slate that wealth and status changed him for the worse, and simply asks that all the workers be rehired and given the job benefits he originally 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. As they argue and leave, Mr. Slate remarks to himself "There goes the best executive I ever had."
- 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 Sharon Stone
- Elizabeth Taylor as Pearl Slaghoople
- Mel Blanc as the voice of Dino (appears through archival audio)
- Elaine & Melanie Silver as Pebbles Flintstone
- Hlynur & Marinó Sigurðsson as Bamm-Bamm Rubble
- Elizabeth Daily (uncredited) as Dubbed voice of Bamm-Bamm
- Dann Florek as Mr. Slate
- Richard Moll as Hoagie
- Irwin Keyes as Joe Rockhead
- Harvey Korman as the voice of the Dictabird
- 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 (the original voice of Wilma) as Mrs. Feldspar
- Laraine Newman as Susan Rock
- Jay Leno as a talk show host
- William Hanna as a boardroom executive
- Joseph Barbera as a man driving a Mersandes
- Sam Raimi as a 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.
Actors John Candy, Jim Belushi, Dan Aykroyd, Bill Murray, and Chevy Chase were all considered for the role of Fred Flintstone, but John Candy had died before production began, the last four actors were all deemed too skinny and a fat suit was deemed too inappropriate to be used. If Goodman had turned the role down, the film would not have been made.
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 Moranis for the role. DeVito was also considered for Fred Flintstone.
Although Janine Turner was considered, 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.
The film review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes gave the film a 21% "Rotten" rating based on 42 reviews with an average rating of 3.7/10. At Metacritic, which assigns a normalized rating out of 100 to reviews from mainstream critics, the film has received an average score of 38 out of 100, which indicates "generally unfavorable reviews", based on 15 reviews.
On Siskel and Ebert, Gene Siskel of the Chicago Tribune and Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times gave the film two marginal thumbs down. 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. Other reviews in which were positive, Time Magazine said "The Flintstones is fun", and Joel Siegel from Good Morning America called the film "pre-historical, hysterical... great fun".
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 overseas, for a total of $341,631,208 worldwide, against a $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. 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. In a 1997 interview, Flintstones co-creator and Hanna-Barbera co-founder Joseph Barbera 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."
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.
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. Unlike its predecessor, it failed at the box office.
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- Fox, David J. (1994-05-31). "'Flintstones' Leaves the Rest in Its Dust Movies: The live-action film takes in $37.5 million over the weekend. Ticket-price inflation notwithstanding, it establishes a record for a Memorial Day opening, based on preliminary estimates.". The Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2010-12-29.
- Page, Janice (1994-03-24). "ROSIE: She Cuts Through the Rubble and Tells It Straight Up : The Comic-Turned-Actress Is a Real-Life Rizzo Who Says What's on Her Mind". The Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2010-11-10.
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- Evans, Bradford (15 September 2011). "The Lost Roles of Danny DeVito". Splitsider. Retrieved 5 January 2016.
- Klossner, Michael (2006). Prehistoric Humans in Film and Television: 581 Dramas, Comedies and Documentaries, 1905-2004. McFarland. ISBN 9781476609140.
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- Turan, Kenneth (1994-05-27). "Movie review: 'The Flintstones' succeeds at being cartoonish. But do three dozen writers make for a good script? Don't take it for granite.". The Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2010-08-24.
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- Maltin, Leonard (February 26, 1997). "'Joseph Barbera Interview'". Archive of American Television. Retrieved January 16, 2014.
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