First things first — it is better than the original, famously troubled 1994 version that sank under the weight of too many screenwriters (reportedly over 30) and too many commercial tie-ins. This prequel benefits from lower expectations (it was originally intended as a straight-to-video release) and improved technology (the CGI dinosaurs are terrific). Okay, it begins with a fart joke (the guilty party — a dinosaur — says, “Hey, I got three stomachs, cut me some slack!”). And the rest of the humor is only slightly more elevated. And some of its jokes are older than the Stone Age. But it is not too bad, there are even a couple of genuinely funny moments, and it can provide for a moderately enjoyable family outing or a first-class birthday party for anyone in the 5-8-year-old range. The kids at the screening I attended cheered and applauded.
Mark Addy (from “The Full Monty”) and Stephen Baldwin (from “The Usual Suspects”) play Fred and Barney as though they are really enjoying it. The wonderfully talented Kristen Johnston (“Third Rock from the Sun”) is sadly underused as Wilma, but she looks sensational in her “Isaac Miz- rock-hi” animal skins. Wilma is the pampered daughter of the snobbish Pearl Slaghoople (Joan Collins in sort of prehistoric “Dynasty” mode) and the loving but addled Colonel (Harvey Korman). She has no interest in a life of country clubs and snobs. She runs away and is befriended by waitress Betty O’Shale (Jane Krakowski of “Ally McBeal”). They meet Fred and Barney and all goes well until Chip Rockefeller (“Dharma & Greg’s” Thomas Gibson), who is after Wilma’s fortune, invites them to his new resort in Rock Vegas. But all ends well, and we even get to see the origins of Wilma’s upswept hairstyle and pearls.
The highlight of the movie is Alan Cummings. He plays both Gazoo, the space alien who comes to earth to observe human mating rituals, and Mick Jagged, the (what else) rock star, frontman for (what else) the Stones. It’s a real pity that he plays only two roles – the movie fades whenever he is off screen. In the soundtrack’s highlight, Ann-Margret simultaneously salutes two of her career highlights — the original Flintstones cartoon (as “Ann Margrock”) and “Viva Las Vegas” with a terrific rendition of “Viva Rock Vegas.”
Parents should know that there are a few naughty words and mild sexual references (one afternoon Betty tells Barney that she wants to come back to his apartment and make him breakfast, and he wonders what she wants to do until morning), and some pie-in-the-face/pratfall cartoon violence.
Families who see this movie should discuss why Wilma feels unsatisfied despite her wealth, why Fred feels that he has to make a lot of money to compete with Chip, and how Betty and Barney create trouble by jumping to conclusions instead of telling each other about what worries them. Parents will also want to talk about Betty’s decision to go off with Mick when she thinks Barney has been unfaithful. Whether it is out of spite or a way to bolster her spirits, it is a foolish response.
Families who enjoy this movie will enjoy the old Flintstones and Jetsons cartoons, and may even get a kick out of looking for the similarities between them.