Everyone’s favorite stoneage family is back in another long-awaited animated film, which hits the shelves on March 17. Believe it or not, it’s actually been more than 14 years since the last Flintstone production, “On the Rocks”, aired on Cartoon Network. It is also the first attempt to bring the characters to life without the involvement of any of the series’ original creators, Williams Hannah and Joseph Barbera. The question you must be asking yourself right now is, do the bedrock nut heads still have the spark of charm that made them so popular back in the 1960’s? Maybe not entirely, but I’m surprised at how much I enjoyed this resurgence of Fred, Wilma, Barney and Betty, even despite the fact that the creative forces have been handed over.
In ‘Stone Age Smack SmackDown!”, Fred is planning an expensive vacation for himself and his family, and everything seems to be going well. That is until he nearly kills his boss in a work accident, which results in his salary being taken from him. In a desperate attempt to hide his failure from Wilma, he and his old friend Barney start a wrestling business, featuring WWE superstars such as John Cena(stone), CM Punk(rock) and The Undertaker. But before they know it, things spiral out of control until our duo is way in over their heads.
I can’t speak for all fans, but I found just as much delight in this revitalisation as anything in the Flintstone catalogue. Is it as good as when the family was on primetime television? Certainly not, but the feel of it remains intact, and the pop culture references are as prevalent as ever. To me, those are the most important ingredients in this recipe, and here I feel like they really did a wonderful job of recapturing the spirit of the old show, while still keeping the idea fresh and lively enough for the modern-day audience.
The animation this time around is considerably sharper and more detailed than when we last visited the pre-historic universe, but stylistically they’ve kept it as close as possible to the original drawings, with backgrounds being slightly blurry and washed out like an oil painting. The character design hasn’t changed that much either, but for some odd reason they thought it was a brilliant idea to give Betty Rubble and her son, Bam Bam, larger-than-life size eyes. It’s not a huge problem, but it does take some time to get used to. Same thing can be said for the voice acting, which is really well-done, but quite different from the old days.
As far as the story goes, I would argue that it feels a bit derived, just for the sake of including famous wrestlers. The collaboration between Warner Bros. and WWE Studios does smell more like a corporate business decision from time to time, and that is largely validated by the previous effort to bring the sport of wrestling into the Scooby Doo franchise. I will say, though, that the crossover works much better in this case, since The Flintstones were always known for interacting with cartoonifications of real-life celebrities. I’m not sure this was the best or most optimal way to revive the concept, but the animators always keep things moving, so that we never feel bored for a second. The comedy is often spot-on, but it would’ve been nice to see more of Fred’s anger-filled personality. In this one he is kind of soft-hearted from the get-go, and almost becomes a lighter version of Hanna-Barbera’s intended vision. Still, it doesn’t take away from the fun of it all.