Taking the term "prehistoric" literally, director Brian Levant returns with a film that's a prequel to both the animated "Flintstones" TV series and his own live action, big-screen version of 1994.
"The Flintstones in Viva Rock Vegas" charts the first meeting of poor little rich girl Wilma Slaghoople (Kristen Johnson) and working stiff Fred Flintstone (Mark Addy), along with the attendant coupling of Fred's pal Barney Rubble (Stephen Baldwin) and Bronto King waitress Betty O'Shale (Jane Krakowski). Our guide to these momentous events is the Great Gazoo (Alan Cumming), a space-alien character from the fading days of the TV series who's here sent to Earth to monitor the mating rituals of earthlings. Once the matches are made, the couples take off for Rock Vegas, a new gambling city (but a lame pun nonetheless) that's run by the other man who's battling for Wilma's affections, the slimy Chip Rockefeller (Thomas Gibson).
In casting the prequel, director Levant has scrapped all of the actors from his first version except for Harvey Korman, who moves up from his previous role as the Dictabird to play Col. Slaghoople, Wilma's dotty father. (Korman, incidentally, was the voice of the TV Gazoo.) And Rosie O'Donnell, the original Betty Rubble, slums it in the thankless role of a massage octous at the Rock Vegas hotel.
Levant's new leading players do little to enrich their characters. The British Addy, best known for his role in "The Full Monty," bears a passable resemblance to the cartoon Fred but displays marginal charisma. Baldwin, who has in most of his films come across as dimwitted as Barney himself, relies on his innate, drop-jawed goofiness to bring the part to life. It doesn't.
Johnson ("Third Rock From the Sun") lends a tomboyish quality to Wilma but ignites scant chemistry with Addy. Likewise, Krakowski (best known as the nosy secretary, Elaine, on "Ally McBeal)" is a likable enough presence with her high-pitched giggle, but her portrayal never quite takes off.
Most of the problems with "The Flintstones in Viva Rock Vegas" lie in Levant's emphasizing his computer-generated prehistoric world over anything that approaches true humor. Abetted by screenwriters Harry Elfont and Deborah Kaplan, he apparently feels that the lack of a coherent story or workable gags will be overshadowed by the nifty Bedrock backdrop. That doesn't happen either.
Hanna-Barbera's original program was essentially a witty take on "The Honeymooners." "The Flintstones" mined its humor from the same sort of situations in which the Kramdens and the Nortons found themselves, and at the same time pulled off some pretty clever puns of its own. Above all, the show knew how to entertain viewers of all ages. Levant and his gang completely lose sight of that virtue, serving up a convoluted mess that will likely appeal to neither the young nor the old. This outing is a yabba dabba don't.
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