Saturday, February 11, 2017

The Flintstones in Viva Rock Vegas

Year 9, Day 42 - 2/11/17 - Movie #2,542

BEFORE: This may seem like an odd choice, because it's not a traditional Hollywood romance film - but God knows, a lot of those have let me down over the last two weeks, so what the heck, it's worth a shot.  And Kristen Johnson, who didn't show up in ANY movies during the first 8 years of this project, carries over from "Bride Wars" and appears for the third time in a week.  Hey, you live by the linking, you die by the linking.  

My reasoning for including this here, beyond that, is that this film tells the backstory of how the two couples, the Flintstones and the Rubbles, met and fell in love.  That's got to fit somewhere into a romance chain, right? 

But before I watch a film that received 0 Oscar nominations, but 4 Razzie nominations, let's peek at the TCM schedule of films that WERE nominated for Oscars, for Sunday, February 12:
6:00 AM The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter (1968)
8:30 AM The Heiress (1949)
10:30 AM High Society (1956)
12:30 PM Hold Back the Dawn (1941)
2:45 PM Honeysuckle Rose (1980)
5:00 PM How the West Was Won (1962)
8:00 PM How to Marry a Millionaire (1953)
9:45 PM The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1939)
11:45 PM I Married a Witch (1942)
1:15 AM I Remember Mama (1948)
3:45 AM I Vitelloni (1953)

I've only seen ONE of these 11 films - "How to Marry a Millionaire", but I've got plans to watch "High Society" before February ends, so I'm counting that one.  2 seen out of 11 brings me up to 55 seen out of 128.  I could record "How the West Was Won", because it's got Debbie Reynolds in it, but that feels off-topic.  And it raises the question of why TCM's not airing any of the 11 Best Picture winners that I still need to see - like "How Green Was My Valley", "Gentleman's Agreement" and "The Greatest Show on Earth"?  I mean, I understand the need to shake things up differently each year, but you can't just ignore Best Picture winners, right?  Of the 11 I haven't seen, they're only airing 1, "The Great Ziegfeld", and I already missed that one.  Oh, well.

THE PLOT: The Flintstones and the Rubbles go on a trip to Rock Vegas, where Wilma is pursued by playboy Chip Rockefeller.

AFTER: Hey, as long as I watched one update of a cartoon show I watched as a kid ("Mr. Peabody & Sherman") already this year, I might as well watch another.  (And last year I finally crossed those damn "Brady Bunch" films off the list, too...) Then I'll never have to watch this again.  But why not watch the other "Flintstones" movie first, the one that was released six years before this one?  Ah, but this is a prequel to that film, so watching it first is perfectly fine, narratively chronographically.  

It's funny, but when the film was over, I saw that "Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me" (another film with Kristen Johnston in it) was playing on cable, so I watched that for a while.  Remember how Austin couldn't figure out the mechanics of time travel, so his boss told him (and the audience) not to worry so much about it, and to just try and enjoy it?  I'm going to try to think of that while I review this film, it might help.  Because I know this is just a silly film for kids (or their parents, who grew up watching the original show), the equivalent of a live-action cartoon, and it's not meant to be taken seriously, so I shouldn't.

The original cartoon was the first animated series that ran in prime-time, and for a long time was the most financially successful animated show, until "The Simpsons" came around.  And somehow it felt really old, even back then, and quite innovative at the same time.  That's probably because it depicted Stone-Age life mixed with modern-day conveniences like drive-in movies and take-out restaurants.  If you meet people today who are convinced that dinosaurs and cavemen walked the earth at the same time, feel free to blame "The Flintstones".  These people are also willing to believe that said cavemen showered with the aid of wooly mammoth trunks, and kept tiny proto-piglike animals under their kitchen sinks to act as garbage disposals. 

You take all this stuff in when you're a kid, and it does have an effect over time.  Like in my case, it eventually turned me into the type of person who says, "Hey, that's not right, not even a caveman could propel a car that size around with his feet!" or "Just because you put a bird's beak down onto an LP disc, that wouldn't produce sounds like a record player!"  But if I'm ever going to enjoy movies again, I've got to learn to turn off my mind, relax and float downstream.  Let's just go with it, shall we?

The original show borrowed quite liberally from "The Honeymooners", everything from focusing on two couples who live next door to each other, to turning the "Raccoon Lodge" into the "Water Buffalo Lodge".  And then they dropped in a lot of cultural references to stars with altered names, like Stony Curtis and Ann Margrock.  But the show also got away with some adult issues, like having Fred and Wilma sleep in the same bed (even in 1960, it was still considered vulgar to show a married couple share a bed on TV) and the Rubbles adopting baby Bamm-Bamm because they couldn't have a baby on their own.  Plus they somehow got away with mixing in some sci-fi, when the alien The Great Gazoo would drop by - I never realized as a kid how weird this was, to show cavemen and a alien from a flying saucer in the same story.  

But that's where this movie starts, with Gazoo being sent to the primitive world of Earth, in order to observe its concepts of love and cavemen's mating rituals (Hey, thanks for keeping me on topic...).  And it turns out that cavemen weren't of low intelligence, they just got tongue-tied when asking out attractive cavewomen.  And who knew that Fred initially asked out Betty, and they double-dated with Barney and Wilma, before switching partners? 

We also learn that Wilma came from a rich family, the Slaghooples, but had a falling-out with her mother, Pearl, and left home, forsaking the family fortune, to make her own way in Bedrock.  She only kept one nod to her background, her famous pearl necklace, but otherwise fell for Fred and his down-to-earth workman attitude and lifestyle.  And Barney and Betty bonded over their unusual laughs - but the road to marriage wasn't easy for either couple.

Fred had to compete with Wilma's ex-boyfriend, Chip Rockefeller, the manipulative owner of the "Tardust" Casino in Rock Vegas (ASIDE: I don't get "Rock Vegas", I mean, "Rock" sounds nothing like "Las", so the gag doesn't really work.  It just feels forced.).  People who run casinos just can't be trusted, they're evil liars (Oh, why didn't we as a country pay attention to this?) and Chip sets out to ruin Fred, through gambling, framing him for robbery and blackmailing him to leave Wilma alone.  And Barney similarly has to keep Betty from running off on tour with Mick Jagged of the Rolling Stones.  

The results in both cases seem like foregone conclusions, because we all know that the Flintstones and the Rubbles DO get together, but it is somewhat interesting to learn someone's attempt at creating the backstory.  So I think they did OK here, given the narrative constraints that prevented the story from moving too far in any particular direction. 

But what's really primitive here is the special effects - it's really a peek into the "caveman" days of Hollywood production, and by that I mean it's very last-millennium with its weird combination of puppetry and rough CGI on the dinosaur characters.  The dinosaur that Fred uses as a crane in the quarry doesn't look alive, not at all, it's just a prop when compared to Dino, who's a fully animated character. If they made this movie today they'd just shoot all of the characters against green-screen and then place them in a fully-animated Bedrock background.  Here it feels like there was a plan to replace some of the faker-looking dinosaurs with CGI, and someone forgot to follow through.

Also starring Mark Addy (last seen in "Around the World in 80 Days"), Stephen Baldwin (last seen in "A Simple Twist of Fate"), Jane Krakowski (last seen in "Pixels"), Thomas Gibson, Joan Collins, Alan Cumming (last seen in "The Anniversary Party"), Harvey Korman, Alex Meneses, Tony Longo, Danny Woodburn, with cameos from Jack McGee, Taylor Negron (last seen in "The Last Boy Scout"), Steve Schirripa (last heard in "Planes: Fire & Rescue"), John Cho (last seen in "Star Trek Beyond"), Kristen Stewart (last seen in "American Ultra"), John Taylor (from Duran Duran) and the voice of Rosie O'Donnell (last seen in "Pitch Perfect 2") and the singing voice of Ann-Margret (last seen in "52 Pick-Up").

RATING: 4 out of 10 Rock-ettes

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