Covered in this installment:
- The Flintstones: Viva Rock Vegas
- Yogi the Easter Bear
Six years after the live-action Flintstones movie made a ton of money for Hanna-Barbera, the studio decided to make a prequel. They couldn’t get any of the original cast members, but they wanted to do right by their big blockbuster success. They wanted to honor the original while taking this prequel to new, flashier heights. They did the only thing you can do in that situation: they called up Stephen Baldwin.
Viva Rock Vegas opens with the Great Gazoo, played by Alan Cumming, being sent to Earth to observe human mating rituals. The movie doesn’t even bother focusing on love and marriage. One of the aliens asexually reproduces before the credits roll. And so it becomes clear that if the first Flinstones movie was about money, the second will be about sex.
When we cut to Bedrock, we meet best buds Fred and Barney as they drive to work in a shot David Lynch would steal one year later for Mulholland Drive.
They’re poor, lonely schlubs looking for love when they find the Great Gazoo’s landing site. As Cumming enters the world of people who don’t have Weinerville proportions, his CGI-ness stands out dramatically. The Gazoo character whizzes around the screen the way characters in 3D movies do, and it’s disorienting enough that it feels like watching Avatar or some other nightmare thing we were all trying to convince ourselves looked good in 2008.
Gazoo and a few of the larger dinosaurs aside, much of the Viva Rock Vegas world is made up of large props and elaborate costumes. The budget here couldn’t have been as big as it was for the first movie (in fact, this one recycles at least one exterior shot from the first Flintstones), but everything still looks like it was made with care.
My speculations about the budget are based mostly on how long it takes our characters to get to the titular location. Fred and Barney meet Wilma and Betty and begin a courtship early on, dating around Bedrock and offending Wilma’s upper-class family with the hoi polloi manners of the other three. They only fly out to Rock Vegas for the movie’s last half hour, so that one of Wilma’s suitors (only out for her money and not for her love!!!) can trick Fred into looking like a scummy thief and take Wilma for himself.
That doesn’t end up happening, Fred and Wilma get married after knowing each other for maybe a week, and Betty and Barney are set to get married in the near future.
The cast is strange. John Goodman is replaced by British character actor Mark Addy, Elizabeth Perkins by Kristen Johnson (the mom from 3rd Rock From The Sun) and Rosie O’Donnell by a pre-30 Rock Jane Krakowski. None of them much look like the original animated characters, much less the live actors who preceded them in their roles, but toward the end of the movie Fred dresses in drag and looks a lot like Rosie O’Donnell did in the past movie. I’m not saying this to shame Rosie. I think the makeup artists did a really good job on Mark Addy.
Stephen Baldwin, replacing Rick Moranis, is the weirdest choice. I only really know Stephen from The Usual Suspects, being a born again Evangelical and for being the only Baldwin to look different enough from Alec that I can actually tell him apart (I still get confused about whether it was Billy or Daniel in The Squid and the Whale. He plays Barney Rubble with a pinched-nose dumbass voice (imagine a five-year-old bully saying “Duuuuuuuh” and you’ve got the tone Baldwin hits here) and an inexplicable parted bowl cut. Here he is appearing to grope a woman’s breasts. Don’t worry, he’s only wiping a giant pie off her chest.
It’s interesting watching a dinosaur movie starring a guy who thinks dinosaurs were a hoax. I hope at some point he was interviewed by Nickelodeon Magazine and the writer said “What do you think it would be like if cavemen really drove cars with their feet?” and he was like “Probably pretty weird! It’s amazing being in a movie that pretends this planet is more than 4,000 years old!” The lesser Baldwins each had their moments (Backdraft, uh, appearing as big brother Alec’s replacement for one episode of 30 Rock), and this was Stephen’s last one. He had Bio-Dome, he had Usual Suspects, he had this and then he became the guy who showed up to argue about Christianity on TV when Kirk Cameron wasn’t available. Fortune has not favored Stephen, and maybe that’s because he’s just the worst.
I also wanted to squeeze the made-for-TV movie Yogi the Easter Bear in here. When it originally aired in 1994, my sister Elise and I were at our grandmother’s house for the night. My parents were gone having dinner or just taking a break from their two tiny children so my pregnant mother could relax, and my plan was to play with Grandma until the new Yogi Bear special started at 8pm or so. I don’t think I made it to 7. I only remember Mom and Dad waking me up to take me home. I said goodbye to my grandmother and that was it.
I’m going to keep it that way. My grandmother died a couple weeks ago. She was 97 and mentally with it, and we should all be so lucky. I will, of course, miss her. The memory of falling asleep on her living room couch, waiting for Yogi the Easter Bear to start isn’t one of the 500 most important things about her. It doesn’t define her in any way. But, to me, there’s nothing more to this movie than that night. I’m not going to watch Yogi the Easter Bear and assess it in any critical way. I’m not going to make fun of its original musical numbers or its crappy animation. Maybe it doesn’t have musical numbers to make fun of it in the first place. It doesn’t matter. I’m not going to find out this movie is boring. The version of Yogi the Easter Bear I choose to take with me is the tangential experience of being in my grandmother’s living room, playing with her so much I cannot stay awake for a cartoon.
Author: Alex Rudolph
Alex is from the Bay Area and has lived in Philadelphia for three years, though he is trying to find a way to transport into the Squand commercial that always played early in the morning on Nickelodeon (with a summer place in the Crossfire ad). If you want to talk about Dan Clowes comics and Merzbow, he will sit here and talk about Dan Clowes comics and Merzbow all dang day. He is also the founder of the popular websites AV Club, The New York Times, Harpo Productions and Bitcoin. Follow him on Instagram.