The Flintstones
Theatrical release poster by Drew Struzan
Directed byBrian Levant
Written by
Based onThe Flintstones
by William Hanna and
Joseph Barbera
Produced byBruce Cohen
Starring
CinematographyDean Cundey
Edited byKent Beyda
Music byDavid Newman
Production
companies
Distributed byUniversal Pictures
Release date
  • May 27, 1994 (1994-05-27)
Running time
91 minutes[1]
CountryUnited States
LanguageEnglish
Budget$46 million[2]
Box office$341.6 million[2]

The Flintstones is a 1994 American family comedy film directed by Brian Levant and written by Tom S. Parker, Jim Jennewein, and Steven E. de Souza based on the 1960–1966 animated television series of the same name by Hanna-Barbera. 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 Cliff Vandercave, a villainous executive-vice president of Fred's company, Halle Berry as Sharon Stone, his seductive secretary, and Elizabeth Taylor (in her final theatrical film appearance), as Pearl Slaghoople, Wilma's mother. The B-52's performed their version of the cartoon's theme song, playing cavemen versions of themselves as the BC-52's.

The film, shot in California, was theatrically released on May 27, 1994. It received mostly negative reviews from critics but was a box office success grossing almost $342 million worldwide against a $46 million budget. A tie-in promotion with McDonald's was made to promote the film. The movie was originally acquired by New Line Cinema, but then sold to Universal Pictures.

A prequel titled The Flintstones in Viva Rock Vegas was released in 2000.

Plot

In prehistoric suburban Bedrock, Slate & Co.'s new vice-president Cliff Vandercave and his glamourous secretary Sharon Stone discuss their plan to swindle the company of its vast fortune, pin the theft on an employee, and flee. Fred Flintstone loans his best friend and neighbor Barney Rubble money so that he and his wife Betty can adopt a little boy named Bamm-Bamm, who can only pronounce his own name. Though initially hard to control because of his super strength, Bamm-Bamm eventually warms up to his new family and befriends Fred’s daughter Pebbles. Despite his mother-in-law Pearl Slaghoople's objections, Fred's wife Wilma remains supportive of his decision to loan the Rubbles money.

Cliff holds an aptitude test, with the worker with the highest mark becoming the company's new vice executive president. Barney who is doing well in the test, notices Fred is struggling miserably. In an act to return the kindness Fred has previously given him, Barney intentionally swaps his test sheet under Fred's file, knowing that had he not done that, Fred would have failed the test. Fred receives the promotion, complete with executive perks such as a luxurious office and Stone appointed as his secretary. To test Fred’s willingness to follow orders, Cliff asks him to dismiss Barney who, with Fred's test paper, has the lowest score in the company. Though Fred is unwilling to fire him, he reluctantly accepts, but continues to help Barney support his family, even inviting the Rubbles to live with them so that they can rent out their house. However, Fred's job and newfound wealth eventually hinder his relationships with Wilma and the Rubbles. Cliff eventually tricks Fred into dismissing the other workers, over the objections of his office Dictabird. Later, Barney confronts Fred after seeing worker riots on the news and, after revealing that he switched tests with Fred, moves out with Betty. Wilma and Pebbles also leave for Pearl's house, leaving Fred behind.

Fred goes to the quarry, discovers Cliff's plan, and tries getting Mr. Slate to fire Cliff. However, having manipulated the events to make it look as if Fred stole the money, Cliff has reported the theft to the police. Fred flees, but a manhunt ensues by both the police and the fired 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 a disguised Fred enters the workers' cave, he is discovered and the workers try hanging him. When Barney shows up as a sno-cone truck driver, the workers also try to hang him as well when he admits his role in the events. Fred and Barney reconcile before Wilma, Betty and the Dictabird save them and Wilma and the Dictabird tell the workers that Cliff was the one who fired them in order to frame Fred, then the workers hear a story from the Dictabird about what Cliff was doing in his office.

When the Flintstones and Rubbles return home, they find it burglarized with Dino and Pearl tied up and Pebbles and Bamm-Bamm gone. The group finds a note from Cliff saying that he will trade the children for the Dictabird. 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 Stone incapacitates him, having had a change of heart after learning of Cliff's plan to betray her. The police, Wilma, Betty, and Mr. Slate arrive and Cliff attempts to escape, but he is encased by a substance falling from the machine.

Fred and the Dictabird tell the police of Cliff's actions and all charges against Fred are dropped. 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 declares the stone age over. Mr. Slate asks for the workers to be rehired and makes plans to produce the concrete with Fred leading its division. Having experienced the negatives of wealth and status, Fred declines the offer and asks that the workers be given two weeks paid leave as part of their salary among other benefits, preferring to return to his old life.

Cast

In addition to the main cast, The Flintstones features Elaine and Melanie Silver as Fred's daughter Pebbles Flintstone, and Hlynur and Marinó Sigurðsson as Barney's adopted son Bamm-Bamm Rubble. The cast also includes Harvey Korman as the voice of the Dictabird,[7] Dann Florek as Fred's supervisor Mr. Slate, Richard Moll and Irwin Keyes as Fred's respective co-workers Hoagie and Joe Rockhead,[8][9] and Sheryl Lee Ralph as adoption agent Mrs. Pyrite.

News reporter Susan Rock is portrayed by Laraine Newman and Jay Leno plays the host of the television series Bedrock's Most Wanted.[10] Fred Schneider, Kate Pierson and Keith Strickland of The B-52's appear as The BC-52's. Other cameos include Jonathan Winters as a co-worker of Fred and Barney's at Slate and Co.,[3] Jack O'Halloran as the Yeti, Jean Vander Pyl as Mrs. Feldspar (Vander Pyl was the voice of Wilma in the original animated series),[11] and original series creators William Hanna and Joseph Barbera as a boardroom executive and a man driving a Mersandes, respectively.

Production

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 submitted in September 1987 was eventually rejected and in October 1989 a new script by Daniel and Joshua Goldin was submitted.[12] Peter Martin Wortmann and Robert Conte submitted another draft in March 1990 before Mitch Markowitz was hired to write a script.[12] Said to be inspired by 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.[13] A further draft was then submitted and revised by Jeffrey Reno and Ron Osbourne in 1991 and 1992. 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 because of his love for the original series.

When Levant was hired, all previous scripts were thrown out. In May 1992, Michael J. Wilson submitted a four-page story that became the basis for the film. This was turned into a script by Jim Jennewein and Tom S. Parker. A meeting of Levant, Bruce Cohen, Jason Hoffs and Kate Barker gave notes to Gary Ross, who produced another draft.[12] 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. Levant described as "a sitcom on steroids, just trying to improve it." The writers, dubbed the Flintstone Eight, were Al Aidekman, Cindy Begel, Lloyd Garver, David Silverman, Stephen Sustarsic, Nancy Steen, Neil Thompson plus Levant. The group wrote a new draft but four more round table sessions ensued, each of which was attended by new talent, including Rob Dames, Lenny Ripps, Fred Fox Jr., Dava Savel, Lon Diamond, David Richardson, Roy Teicher, Richard Gurman, Michael J. Digaetano and Ruth Bennett.[12] Lowell Ganz and Babaloo Mandel worked on it next with Levant, taking home a reported $100,000 for just two days work.[14] Rick Moranis was also present at Levant's roundtables, and later described the film as "one of those scripts that had about 18 writers."[15] Levant made eight more revisions before finally registering a shooting script on August 7, 1993. Of the 35 writers, the Flintstone Eight were submitted for arbitration by the Writers Guild of America plus Wilson for story credit;[12] however, credit was given to the first script by De Souza and to Jennewein and Parker for their drafts.

The effects for Dino, the Dictabird and 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).

Casting

John Candy, Jim Belushi, Dan Aykroyd, Bill Murray, and Chevy Chase were all considered for the role of Fred Flintstone.[4][16] 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 Fred 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".[17] Had Goodman turned the role down, the film would not have been made.[4] Geena Davis, Faith Ford, and Catherine O'Hara were all considered for the role of Wilma, but Elizabeth Perkins eventually won the role.[18] 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.[4] DeVito was also considered for Fred.[19] Although Janine Turner was considered, Rosie O'Donnell won the role of Betty Rubble with her impersonation of the cartoon character's signature giggle.[4] Both Tracey Ullman and Daphne Zuniga were also considered for the role.[18] Sharon Stone was to play Miss Stone, but turned it down because of scheduling conflicts.[4][20] The role was also offered to Nicole Kidman.[4] Both Audrey Meadows and Elizabeth Montgomery were considered for the role of Pearl Slaghoople.[18]

Filming

Principal photography began on May 17, 1993, and wrapped three months later, on August 20.[21][22][23] Parts of the film were shot at Glen Canyon in Utah as well as Los Angeles County, California.[24] Sets that resembled a complete street from Bedrock were constructed adjacent to Vasquez Rocks in California. Before being totally demolished, visitors could tour the location.[25]

Reception

Box office

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 (a then-record gross for the Memorial Day weekend, surpassing Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade). It performed well internationally, making another $211,100,000, for a total of $341,631,208 worldwide, more than seven times its $46 million budget.[2] Along with Lethal Weapon 3, the film also had the biggest May opening weekend until it was taken by Twister in 1996.[26] In the same year, Mission: Impossible surpassed The Flintstones to have the highest Memorial Day opening weekend gross.[27] The film topped the box office for two weeks until it was dethroned by Speed.[28] In the United Kingdom, it had the second highest opening week at the time behind Jurassic Park, with a gross of $8.7 million.[29][30] In Mexico, it had a record opening with $4.9 million in four days.[31] In Australia, it grossed $2 million in its opening weekend, also the second highest at the time behind Jurassic Park.[32] In Italy, it grossed $4.8 million in its first six days, again the second biggest opener in Italy at the time behind Jurassic Park.[33] It set opening records in Hungary and Poland.[32] It went on to gross over $15 million in Italy, $35 million in Germany and $31 million in the United Kingdom.[34] It did not perform well in France or South Korea.[35]

Critical response

On the review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, 23% of 48 critics' reviews are positive, with an average rating of 4/10. The website's consensus reads: "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."[36] Metacritic, which uses a weighted average, assigned the film a score of 38 out of 100, based on 15 critics, indicating "generally unfavorable" reviews.[37] Audiences surveyed by CinemaScore gave the film a grade "B+" on scale of A+ to F.[38]

On 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. Ebert gave it 2.5 stars out of 4 in his newspaper review, and Siskel gave it 1.5 stars out of 4 in his newspaper review. They both mentioned that its main storylines (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.

Kenneth Turan of the Los Angeles Times wrote that the film never had much potential and "has been carefully designed to be as bright and insubstantial as a child’s toy balloon." Comparing the film to The Addams Family, he called both films "clever, lively and ultimately wearying pieces of showy Hollywood machinery" that favor visuals over writing.[39]

Caryn James of The New York Times wrote that Goodman "goes a long way toward carrying The Flintstones over a script that is essentially a bunch of rock jokes and puns stretched to feature-film length," but James also said the film is too faithful to its 1960s source material and lacks modern pop culture references.[10]

Todd McCarthy of Variety said that "with all manner of friendly beasts, a superenergetic John Goodman and a colorful supporting cast inhabiting a Bedrock that resembles a Stone Age version of Steven Spielberg suburbia, this live-action translation of the perennial cartoon favorite is a fine popcorn picture for small fry, and perfectly inoffensive for adults."[40]

Michael Wilmington of the Chicago Tribune wrote that the film resembled "a mountain of production, a rock of a cast, [and] a pebble of thought."[41]

A few reviews were positive, including one from Richard Schickel of Time, who said that "nothing has been lost—or worse, inflated out of proportion" in the adaptation. He said it "doesn't feel overcalculated, over-produced or overthought."[42]

In a 1997 interview, Joseph Barbera, co-founder of Hanna-Barbera Productions and co-creator of The Flintstones, 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."[43]

Year-end lists

Accolades

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. 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.

Marketing

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 week the film was released, MTV aired a block of The Grind with Eric Nies at the film's Bedrock set with dancers in cave outfits performing to hit music at the time from Ace of Base, Was (Not Was), Warren G and Nate Dogg while Eric asked the dancers themed trivia questions from the show and encouraged the viewers to purchase the film's soundtrack.[50] 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 TV commercials 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.

Home media

The film was released on VHS and LaserDisc on November 8, 1994, and on DVD on March 16, 1999. It was released on Blu-ray on August 19, 2014.[51]

Video game

Main article: The Flintstones (1994 Ocean Software video game)

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 Flintstone and has to rescue Wilma, Barney, Pebbles and Bam-Bam from Cliff Vandercave.[52][53]

A Sega Genesis version developed by Foley Hi-Tech and published by Ocean Software was also planned, but was later canceled and was released on the Sega Channel instead.[54][unreliable source?]

Prequel

Main article: The Flintstones in Viva Rock Vegas

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. It received negative reviews and was a box office failure.

See also

References

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