For the second year in a row, Universal is the creator of the summer's most eagerly awaited escapist movie. Last year their "Jurassic Park" took the world by storm and became the biggest moneymaker of all time. This year their attempt to separate you from your money comes in the form of a live-action film based on the popular Hanna-Barbera cartoon "The Flintstones". Although the project passed through the hands of countless screenwriters and was helmed by a director whose previous efforts ("Problem Child 2" and "Beethoven") were hardly of Spielbergian proportions, the finished product is an enjoyable romp, owing largely to a goofy amiability and clever special effects. The question is then begged, will Universal's latest production be as lucrative as their dino- epic? Only time will tell, but I would seriously doubt that the success of the "modern Stone Age family" could rival that of its predecessor.
The storyline finds Fred Flintstone (John Goodman) yearning for greater success than his quarry job can extend to him. Although not the smartest homo-sapien, Fred has a big heart and doesn't hesitate to loan his best friend Barney Rubble (Rick Moranis) money to adopt a son. Barney returns the favor by switching his management-aptitude test with Fred's without revealing what he has done. The result is that Fred is promoted to the executive branch of the Slate & Co. quarry. But all is not as rosy as it appears. Fred's first duty as a vice president is to lay off Barney because of his low score on the test. Cliff Vandercave (Kyle MacLachlan), also an executive at the quarry, then uses Fred's naivete to launch his plan to embezzle a fortune from the company. With his beautiful secretary, Miss Stone (Halle Berry), part of the plan, Fred is a hapless accessory to the crime being committed. He is even tricked into firing the rest of his former blue-collar co- workers.
Meanwhile on the home front, Fred's wife Wilma (Elizabeth Perkins) and Barney's wife Betty (Rosie O'Donnell) have cast aside their years of friendship because of the way the Flintstone's have been changed by their success. Even Wilma's mother, Pearl Slaghoople (Elizabeth Taylor), has had a change of heart and is no longer at the throat of her son-in-law now that he has become prosperous. Eventually, though, the Flintstones and Rubbles discover what has been going on and patch up their friendship. They then set out to correct the situation with the help of Fred's astute Dictabird (voice of Harvey Korman).
"The Flintstone" has a lot going for it from a loopy sense of humor and fun performances, to a seamless blend of live- action and effects, both computer-generated and mechanical. Because they are made to look "cartoony", the special effects aren't as dazzling as those found in "Jurassic Park" (a name, by the way, which is used to label a kids' playground in the film). Much to the film's credit are live-action recreations of the animated series' opening and closing credits, right down to the sabretooth Kitty throwing Fred out at the end. Also included are familiar moments such as Dino knocking down Fred whenever he comes home from work and Wilma and Betty yelling "Charge it!" in a fashion store.
So what's the bottom line? Although I would consider "The Flintstones" to be a "must see" film for anyone who has ever enjoyed their animated antics, I don't think the film will do the kind of repeat business that turns hits like "Jurassic Park" into mega-business blockbusters. Not helping matters any is the film's scant under-90-minute running time which will doubtless leave audiences clamoring for more. Of course, it is a welcome change that for once a big summer hit is suitable for the entire family and will entertain audiences of all ages.