The cartoon's irreverent take on modern values through the prism of an imaginary Stone Age is a comic howl that things never change.


A Illusion review by Joan Ellis.

Because "The Flintstones" has its tongue planted firmly in its cheek, it can get away with anything. The cartoon's irreverent take on modern values through the prism of an imaginary Stone Age is a comic howl that things never change. With a deep satirical taproot in today's culture, Steven Spielberg invites us to laugh at the timelessness of Stone Age jump rope, backyard basketball and contempo rock at the Cavern-on-the-Green. Watch a pelt-clad suburbanite pushing his lawnmower whose long handle leads to a giant, grass-chewing crab and then try to cut your lawn without thinking of this little guy.

You will never see more wonderful vehicles - cars, trikes, a fast-food truck and heavy equipment, all made of stone and imagination. From transportation to fur curtains to an oyster shell wet bar, the movie makes fun of us all, and the special effects are almost matched by the actors.

Fred (John Goodman) is the good-natured dunce who thinks he is king of his castle, and Wilma (Elizabeth Perkins) is the supportive wife who really runs the show. Her mother, Pearl Slaghoople (Elizabeth Taylor), nags her hapless son-in-law to make something of himself, and Barney and Betty Rubble (Rick Moranis and Rosie O'donnell) are the very essence of noble friendship. All of them live in the wonderfully imagined town of Bedrock, hard by the stone quarry where Fred and Barney work. Bedrock is a masterful recreation of our own culture cast in stone.

How else would a stone car be powered than by John Goodman's dainty, dancing feet? What better form for a garbage disposal than a plug ugly Stone Age pig? The Rubbles and the Flintstones read "The Bedrock News", play miniature golf into the mouths of frogs and eat lizard and onion sandwiches.

All this imagery needs a plot, and this one sees Fred plunged into financial ruin and resurrection by his unwitting friend, Barney. The silly story provides the means for establishing the essential sweetness of all the characters. We suffer over the Rubbles' troubles. Think of Barney as he drives a snowcone truck and muses, "I have feelings, and you hurt them." Kyle MacLachlan's villainous Cliff Vandercave is too ordinary a bad guy to keep pace with his peers, but it's really the only sour casting note, and he delivers this fine description of Fred: "People like Flintstone are prone to irrational bouts of integrity."

This is not a movie for everyone. Grandparents will remember the ubiquitous theme song as background music that roared forth from the TV while they nurtured their boomer children. The boomers will relive their childhood prime-time pleasure. But it's a movie for a certain mood, and some people may never experience the right one. As a test of whether to go, is your funnybone tickled by this question asked of the Rubbles' little boy whose name is Bam, Bam? Question: "Bam, Bam, what's that short for?" Answer: "Bam, Bam, Bam."

Film Critic: JOAN ELLIS
Word Count: 496
Studio: Universal
Rating: PG, 92 minutes

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