The Flintstones (film)
Theatrical release poster by Drew Struzan
|Directed by||Brian Levant|
|Produced by||Bruce Cohen|
|Based on||The Flintstones|
by William Hanna
|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 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 Bedrock, Slate International's new CEO Cliff Vandercave and his secretary Miss Stone discuss their plan to swindle the company of its vast fortune and flee. As part of the plan, they would need one of the employees to be the scapegoat. Meanwhile, Fred Flintstone loans his best friend and neighbor Barney Rubble money so that he and his wife Betty can adopt a child. The agency pairs them up with a child named Bamm-Bamm, who can only pronounce his own name. Although Bamm-Bamm is initially difficult to control due to being raised by mastodons, and thus has super strength, he eventually warms up to his new family. Barney vows to repay his friend Fred for his debt of gratitude. Despite his mother-in-law Pearl Slaghoople's objections, Fred's wife Wilma remains supportive of Fred's decision to help Barney. Fred promises he will prove himself to her one day.
As part of his scheme to find the fall guy, Vandercave holds a company-wide aptitude test, where the worker with the highest score would become the new vice president of the company. Knowing how much Fred wants the promotion, Barney secretly switches his completed test with Fred's, since he knows that he has a better chance than Fred. Fred receives the promotion, complete many fancy perks, including a big executive office and a beautiful secretary whom he immediately develops an infatuation for, but his first order as vice president is to dismiss Barney, since Barney's score, having been switched with Fred's, is the lowest score in the company. Fred is unwilling to fire his friend, but Vandercave threatens to fire both Barney and him if he refuses. Fred reluctantly accepts, but does his best to help Barney support his family, and even invites the Rubbles to live with the Flintstone family so that they can rent out their home for extra income. However, Fred's job and newfound wealth puts a strain on his relationships with Wilma and the Rubbles. Vandercave eventually tricks Fred into dismissing more workers, over the objections of his office Dictabird. Later, Barney confronts Fred after seeing worker riots on the news, and in the heat of the argument, reveals that he switched tests with Fred. The Rubbles move out, despite having nowhere to live. Wilma becomes fed up with Fred's increasingly snobbish behavior as well after catching him in the middle of an intimate moment with his secretary and she leaves him to go to her mother's house with their daughter Pebbles, leaving Fred alone.
Fred goes to the quarry and realizes his mistake when he discovers Vandercave's plan. He finds out that Vandercave has manipulated events to make it look as if Fred stole the money, and that he has reported the stolen money to the police. A manhunt for Fred ensues, led by the police and the workers. Shocked by the news and knowing Fred would never go as far as embezzlement, Wilma and Betty break into Slate and Co. to get the Dictabird, who serves as the only witness who can clear Fred's name. They are, however, unaware that Vandercave has been watching them from his office window. Meanwhile, Fred, while in disguise, attempts to enter a cave where the workers are seeking refuge. However, 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 are lynched, Wilma and Betty arrive with the Dictabird, who, after Fred apologizes to him and the workers, tells them the true story. The workers release Fred and Barney after realizing that Vandercave was the one who fired them.
Vandercave kidnaps Pebbles and Bamm-Bamm and demands the Dictabird in exchange for the children's safe return. Fred and Barney confront Vandercave at the quarry, where Vandercave has tied Pebbles and Bamm-Bamm to a large industrial mixing machine. Though they hand him the Dictabird, Vandercave still activates the mixer to stall them while he makes a getaway. Barney rescues the children while Fred destroys the mixer. The Dictabird escapes from Vandercave and lures him back to the quarry, where Miss Stone knocks him out, having had a change of heart after learning that Vandercave was planning to betray her. The police, Wilma, Betty, and Mr. Slate arrive at the quarry while Vandercave attempts to flee, but he becomes trapped by a thick liquid substance oozing out from the wrecked mixer.
With the Dictabird as witness and providing evidence against Vandercave, all charges against Fred are dropped. Though Miss Stone is arrested as Vandercave's accomplice, Fred is confident she will be granted leniency for helping them stop Vandercave. Impressed with the qualities of the liquid substance that Fred inadvertently created when he destroyed the mixing 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. With the discovery of concrete, the Stone Age comes to an end. Having realized how his life would change for the worse with his new found wealth and status as the new president, Fred declines the promotion and asks that the workers be rehired and given the job benefits that he was initially to have received. 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 as Dino (archive audio) - Blanc previously supplied the voice of Barney and Dino in the original cartoon series.
- Elaine & Melanie Silver as Pebbles Flintstone
- Hlynur & Marinó Sigurðsson as Bamm-Bamm Rubble - Elizabeth Daily provides Bamm-Bamm's voice, though uncredited
- Dann Florek as Mr. Slate
- Richard Moll as Hoagie
- Irwin Keyes as Joe Rockhead
- Jim Doughan as Maitre d'
- Harvey Korman as the Dictabird (voice) - Korman previously voiced the Great Gazoo in the original cartoon 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 cartoon series.
- 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 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. 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.
The film review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes gave the film a 22% "Rotten" rating based on 44 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 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 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. 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 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.
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.
Home media releases
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 disappointed 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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