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Monday, November 04, 2013

Meet The Flintstones - On The Modern Stone Age Silver Screen

How many of you remember your thirteenth birthday?

For some of you, it may have been just yesterday. For some of you, it was five years ago. And, maybe for some of you reading this, your thirteenth birthday was a half-century ago.

Well, I remember mine. Mine was in May 1994. That's almost twenty years! And, now I suddenly feel the urge to go to the pharmacy down the block and picking up a container of Metamucil.

And, I have a personal story to tell you about my thirteenth birthday, and that story will flow into today's Monday Matinee topic.

My thirteenth birthday was kind of an emotional one for some odd reason.  The actual day itself sucked, as I recall.  It rained all day long, I had a rough day at school, and to top it all off, the only thing that was on television that night was a "Sesame Street" prime time special.  Oh yeah.  Good times for the teenager of 1994 to be had for sure.

Then again, my thirteenth birthday fell on a Wednesday that year.  Who wants to celebrate their birthday on "hump day"?  At least if it fell on a Saturday, Sunday, or Monday, I didn't have to go to school!

(NOTE:  Whenever my birthday falls on a Monday, it falls on Victoria Day - a statutory holiday here in Canada.)

Fortunately, my party (which was held two days later on a Friday evening), went a lot more smoothly.  I had long decided that I wanted to have a bowling party when I turned thirteen, and I wanted to have a co-ed party.  I invited a friend of mine who went to another school, plus two girls who were in my class.  As I recall, seventh grade was not a good year for me, and at that time, I was contemplating cancelling the whole thing as - well, truth be told, I didn't really like ANYONE in my class aside from three or four kids.  If only they had placed me in the other seventh grade classroom where all the kids I got along with were, it might have had a different result.  But, can't change the past.  You can only grow from it.

And, I'm apologizing for going off topic again.  I do that a lot.

For what it was worth, the bowling party was a hit.  And after bowling, we decided to grab a bite to eat at the McDonald's which was across the street.  At that time, I was still very much a fan of the fast food joint, and my friends agreed that it would be a good place to have my birthday dinner.

Well, that is until we all decided to throw french fries, ice cubes, and packets of ketchup at each other inside the restaurant - away from the Playland area!  Hey, what can I say?  We were thirteen...not thirty.  I was more amazed that none of us were thrown out of the place!

(And, in all honesty if was the right time with the right people, I'd launch a food fight inside of a McDonald's in a heartbeat!)

But the food fight at McDonald's wasn't the only thing that I remembered about my thirteenth birthday.  I also remember there being a very special promotion going on inside of the restaurant at the time of my party.

Although the movie hadn't come out yet (the official release date was May 27, 1994), I do remember there being lots of posters that were based on the yet-to-be released film.

The first poster talked about how the popular McDonald's sandwich known as the "McRib" was coming back to McDonald's locations for a limited time only.  I understand that there are a lot of people who loved that sandwich, and would buy a dozen of them at a time, but the minute they put raw onions all over that sandwich, they forever lost me as a customer.  Still, there was a reason why they chose May 1994 to bring back the McRib.

And this leads to the second promotion.

The second promotion of course related to those McDonald's Happy Meals.  You know, the meals that were for kids and where they would receive a toy to play with as they hardened their arteries with grease soaked Chicken McNuggets and cheeseburgers?  The meals which I readily admit to being forced to eat because at that time you just couldn't buy the Happy Meal toys separately!  Well, as it so happened, McDonald's had a Happy Meal that was based on that upcoming movie.  The logo was even changed temporarily as a result of the promotion for the movie.  Instead of McDonald's... became RocDonald's!

But then again, I guess that was to be expected, when you consider that the toys featured Fred Flintstone, Barney Rubble, Dino, and Pebbles and Bamm-Bamm.  And, on that note, the reintroduction of the McRib on the McDonald's menu also made sense, when you consider that a rack of ribs always made Fred's car tip over sideways!

Yes, we're going to be talking about The Flintstones in this blog entry.  But not the popular Hanna-Barbera cartoon series.  Instead, we're going to be talking about the slightly less popular live action adaptation of the cartoon series, which was turned into a feature film in the spring of 1994.

But, I'm also going to be honest with you.  Yes, "The Flintstones" film got mediocre reviews, and yes, the film didn't perform as well as it probably was expected to.  But when I rented the movie from the video store a few months after it was released on film and watched it, I didn't find it all that bad.  Really, the only major criticism that I had about the movie was that little kids might not understand some of the plot, as the storyline sort of followed what was standard fare on an episode of "The Young and the Restless".  The rest of the film was a fun distraction, and I will definitely say that as far as the cast was concerned, they tried their very best to bring the world of Bedrock into a live-action interpretation.

That cast included John Goodman as Fred Flintstone, Elizabeth Perkins as Wilma Flintstone, Rick Moranis as Barney Rubble, and Rosie O'Donnell as Betty Rubble.

Also rounding out the cast were Kyle MacLachlan, Halle Berry, and in what would be her final appearance in a motion picture, Elizabeth Taylor!

Now, as I explained before, the film was a bit difficult for little kids to follow along with.  Being thirteen at the time the film was released, I got it right away, but for kids who were, say, six or seven, they might not have had such an easy time.  Heck, when I was six, I thought embezzlement was some kind of breath spray that made your breath minty fresh! 
And yet for poor Fred Flintstone, he ended up falling right into a nasty little trap set for him, courtesy of one man by the name of Cliff Vandercave (MacLachlan).

But before we touch upon that little plot development, we probably should talk about how Fred got himself into this position in the first place.

Now, if you've watched the cartoon at all, you know that Fred and Wilma live right next door to Barney and Betty Rubble.  Wilma and Betty are best friends, and although Fred would rather not admit to it, he and Barney share a friendship themselves - even if Fred gets annoyed with Barney every other day.  

(I mean, if your next door neighbour kept coming up with ways to steal your Fruity and Cocoa Pebbles, would you not be a little ticked off yourself?)

The film opens at the workplace where Fred and Barney both work - Slate & Co.  It's basically a mining job, only instead of cranes, they use gigantic dinosaurs to do the work for them.  You see, back in the Stone Age, there was no PETD (People for the Ethical Treatment of Dinosaurs), so dinosaurs were essentially regarded as nothing more than household appliances or office supplies (well, except for the lovable Dino, who has a lot of love to give to anybody who happens to visit the Flintstone residence).

It turns out that the newly appointed vice president of industrial procurement of the company is a very bad boy.  And, if Mr. Vandercave has his way, he would bilk the company out of millions of...well...whatever currency was legal tender in Bedrock.  And, to ensure that his plan was successful, he recruited the lovely Sharon Stone (Berry) to assist him in his evil deeds.

TRIVIA:  Believe it or not, the casting agents of the film really wanted Sharon Stone to be played by...well...Sharon Stone!  But when the real Sharon Stone was unable to commit to the film, Halle Berry was chosen instead.  And to her credit, she did a fine job, considering that she was still a relatively new actress at that time.

But with Vandercave and Stone working together for the greater evil, they needed someone to take the fall while they got away scot-free.  They needed someone who was inept enough to not suspect a thing.

Enter Fred Flintstone.

Now, Fred is basically stuck at an impasse career-wise.  He is basically stuck working a dead-end job.  But to Fred, it's enough for him, as he has a lovely wife and a beautiful daughter named Pebbles.

Next door, Barney and Betty have tried to have a child for years, but they just couldn't find a way to conceive one.  So, with help from Fred who gives Barney and Betty some money to make an adoption happen, Barney and Betty manage to raise enough money to adopt Bamm-Bamm.  In a show of gratitude, Barney wishes to pay Fred back for his kindness.

And when a career test that both Fred and Barney take happens, Barney sees his chance.  When Fred bombs the test - which also threatens any future attempts to move up within the company - Barney (who passes the test with flying colours), switches his test with Fred's, leaving Fred to get the promotion of a lifetime.

Vice-president of Slate & Co.

Of course, Barney is absolutely devastated because technically, he was the one who really earned the job.  But what Barney and Fred don't realize is that with Fred as vice-president, it gave Cliff Vandercave the prime opportunity to make his embezzlement plan a success.

And he does this by manipulating Fred into doing everything he wants.  

He starts by appointing Sharon Stone as Fred's personal secretary.  Cliff feels that by having Fred engaging in a tryst with Stone at work, it will get Cliff closer to getting access to more control within the company - making his job a lot easier.

He also suggests that since Barney flunked the test (which was actually Fred's test), then Fred should fire Barney from his job - offering the argument that they only wanted success stories at Slate & Co.  Fred is very reluctant to do it.  In fact, he refuses to fire Barney.  But as Fred soon realizes, his influence can only go so far.  Nonetheless, Fred tries his best to ease the situation by helping Barney with his financial difficulties, even though Barney is none too pleased with him.

And then things really get rocky.

Cliff tells Fred of a development he has backed which will make the quarry work much easier, and operate on a lower cost, saving lots of money and generating a huge profit.  The solution is in the form of a machine that will do twice as much work than the current staff of quarry operators, and Fred quickly figures out that Cliff is strongly hinting at him terminating the employment of all of the quarry workers for the machine to be built and fully-operational.  And you thought that your job was easy!

The problem is...there is no machine.  Absolutely no machine at all.  It's just a scam that Vandercave has cooked up to bilk as much money out of the company as he can before fleeing.  Worse, he plans to pin the whole thing on Fred, setting him up to take the fall!  To make matters worse, Barney and Fred have a huge falling out, and when Barney drops the bombshell that he switched the tests with Fred, not only do Barney and Betty refuse to speak to him, but Wilma takes Pebbles and moves out of the family home, leaving Fred alone to handle the angry mob of laid off quarry workers and have to find a way to escape the clutches of Cliff Vandercave.

So, what happens when Fred discovers the real motivation behind Cliff Vandercave's evil plot?  Will he have anyone in his corner to stand up against him?  Turns out that at least one person is on Fred's side...and it might be someone that you might not expect.

So, that brings us to the end of today's blog.  Would you like to know some trivia about the film?  Yes?  Okay!

1 - Jean Vander Pyl (the original voice of Wilma in the cartoon) has a cameo in this film.  Look for her in the conga line scene!

2 - The whole cast performed this film barefoot.  This meant no glass props at any time!

3 - When you see Barney driving an ice cream van, listen very closely to the song it plays.  It's the same theme song that The Jetsons used!

4 - Harvey Korman played the role of a dictabird in the film.  In the original cartoon series, he voiced The Great Gazoo!

5 - Rosie O'Donnell nailed her audition for Betty Rubble for being the only actress who could nail Betty's signature laugh.

6 - The B-52's perform two songs in the film as the BC-52's.  One is a reworking of the "Bedrock Twitch", and the second song was the one below!

7 - John Candy was once considered for the role of Fred Flintstone.

8 - The film's budget was $45 million.  Ten per cent of that alone was used to construct the community of Bedrock!

9 - For Elizabeth Taylor to agree to appear in the movie, producers made her a deal.  They would donate the profits generated from the film's premiere to her AIDS foundation.

10 - No actor who auditioned for Barney Rubble could be taller than 5'6".  This may explain how Rick Moranis got the part, though Danny DeVito was also considered.

11 -  Rather than cast a new voice for Dino, the producers just used old tapes of Mel Blanc, who had died five years prior.

12 - John Goodman filmed this movie in between the fifth and sixth seasons of "Roseanne".

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