Flintstones Viva Rock Vegas

There are few things more disappointing than paying premium prices to see a star-filled stage play, only to discover a sign in the lobby stating that due to illness, the evening’s performances will be performed by the understudies. This happened to me several times, and I always ask for a refund. If I pay for A-list, I don’t want second string.

flintstonesvivarockvegasThat’s the feeling I got with “The Flintstones: Viva Rock Vegas.” I felt that the first “Flintstones” movie perfectly nailed the look and feel of the 60’s animated series. It was one of 1984’s guilty pleasures, a chance to relive childhood memories with making excuses.

“Viva Rock Vegas” looks and feels like a pale imitation, a stone age wannabe that would have made an okay direct-to-video title. As a theatrical feature, it lacks everything that made the first film so much fun. The film starts with a dinosaur fart joke, and goes downhill from there. It’s not even a funny fart joke. You know you’re in trouble when you can’t get a laugh out of a dinosaur fart.

“Viva Rock Vegas” is a perfect example of everything that is wrong with movies today. It is dim- witted and laborious, even incapable of distracting the six-year old in front of me, who seemed more interested in the carpet running lights than the film. Who could blame him? Even at an hour- and-a-half, the film seems to go on forever.

The writer’s attempt to mine the original animated series for inspiration is commendable, but the effort doesn’t pay off. While it’s impossible to expect much from a live-action cartoon, nothing in the film makes sense. It’s as if the writers totally forgot they’re playing off another film, one which takes place several years after the action in “Viva Rock Vegas.”

One thing I appreciated about the first “Flintstones” film was the production designers ability to capture the economical look of the animated series in the sets and costumes. The prehistoric world in “Viva Rock Vegas” is filled with garish colors and modern conveniences that are notably absent in the first film. It’s impossible to conceive that this young, hip world could become the stone age one in the original.

It’s also difficult to accept the new cast, who do little to make the material their own. One of the strengths of the first film was perfect casting. John Goodman and Rick Moranis were Fred Flintstone and Barney Rubble. They were oafs, but they were lovable oafs.

Mark Addy and Stephen Baldwin play Fred and Barney as just oafs. It’s hard to believe that Wilma (Kristen Johnston) and Betty (Jane Krakowski) would even be interested in them. The gals fare better, but lack the conviction that Elizabeth Perkins and Rosie O’Donnell brought to the roles.

All four have done better work, but they seem lost in this grown-up playground where the emphasis is on style rather than substance. While it must have been a lot of fun going on the set everyday, it is too bad the writer’s didn’t have much for the actors to do. They’re human props in a plot as old as dinosaur dung that stinks worse than the fresh stuff.

Instead of a sequel, writers Deborah Kaplan, Harry Elfont, Jim Cash and Jack Epps Jr., take us back in time when Fred and Barney were carefree bachelors. Having just graduated from the Brontosaurus Crane Academy, the two are ready to start their lives.

It’s not long before they meet cute with Betty, who is a car hop waitress, and Wilma, on the run from her wealthy family. It’s love at second sight, and when Wilma drags Fred home to meet the family, his presence ignites the jealousy of longtime family friend Chip Rockefeller (Thomas Gibson).

Desperate to marry Wilma and get his hands on the family fortune, Chip invites the group to his new casino in Rock Vegas. There he plans to disgrace Fred, sweep Wilma off her feet, and pay off the casino or have his leg’s broken by the mob. It all plays out so matter-of-fact you literally wince at every missed opportunity.

Director Brian Levant, who carved out his reputation on the original film, can’t even chisel out a laugh on the prequel. Every joke falls flat, and it’s painful to watch the cast bomb. The script is top heavy with stone age references, but they’re lost to an audience that quit paying attention after the first ten minutes.

The only laugh in the film comes at the very beginning, when the pint-sized alien The Great Gazoo (Alan Cummings) comments on the “Univershell” logo circling the globe. The first film was ripe with humor like that. The script in “Viva Rock Vegas” is just ripe.

“The Flintstones; Viva Rock Vegas” is visually exciting, but that’s part of its problem. The characters who are supposed to be colorful, not the elaborate costumes and sets. Even Joan Collins as Wilma’s mother (played in the original by Elizabeth Taylor) is bland, and that takes effort. Harvey Korman is embarrassing as her husband, while returning cast members Rosie O’Donnell (as the voice of a squid) and Irwin Keyes (as a carnival participant) manage to escape unscathed.

Another supposedly nostalgic touch is having Ann-Margret sing the title song, a riff on “Viva Las Vegas,” in which she starred with Elvis Presley. She sounds like Eartha Kitt after a stroke.

I really wanted to like “Viva Rock Vegas.” I enjoyed the first film, so I thought, how bad could the prequel be? How bad indeed!




Mark Addy, Kristen Johnston, Stephen Baldwin, Jane Krakowski, Joan Collins, Alan Cummings, Thomas Gibson, Harvey Korman in a film directed by Brian Levant. Rated PG. 96 Minutes.


Comments are closed.