BOOTLEG FILES 720: “The Flintstones: On the Rocks” (2001 made-for-television animated film).
LAST SEEN: On the Internet Archive
AMERICAN HOME VIDEO: None.
REASON FOR BOOTLEG STATUS: It seems to have fallen through the proverbial cracks.
CHANCES OF SEEING A COMMERCIAL DVD RELEASE: Unlikely.
In 1960, ABC premiered “The Flintstones” as the first animated sitcom to air in prime time. The show was a riff on “The Honeymooners” set in prehistoric times, and it immediately resonated with viewers who kept it on the air for a six-season run.
“The Flintstones” never disappeared from sight. The Hanna-Barbera production brought forth a charming feature film (“A Man Called Flintstone”), spinoff series, a number of one-shot specials (including three different Christmas productions – which is kind of weird, considering the caveman characters were celebrating Christ’s birth) and a wealth of merchandising including breakfast cereals and children’s vitamins. The latter also inspired one of Rodney Dangerfield’s best wisecracks: “Oooh, these kids play around early – now they have birth control pills shaped like Fred Flintstone.”
By the dawn of the 2000s, however, it seemed as if the Flintstones were played out. Yeah, the old series was available on DVD and was being rerun on cable television, but some supposedly bright people believed that a new decade/century/millennium required a new approach to the old vehicle. By that time, Hanna-Barbera was absorbed by the Warner Bros. Animation operation. Cable television’s Cartoon Network was also a Warner Bros. Animation company, so it took control of “The Flintstones” characters to create a film designed to reboot the franchise with a visceral and edgy attitude.
The resulting work, “The Flintstones: On the Rocks,” could easily qualify as the worst animated film of all time. Now, I am aware that calling anything the worst of all time could be considered the ultimate in sloppy reviewing. But this is not an exaggeration – there has never been an animated film that was more charmless and less entertaining than this monstrosity. Really, it is the type of film that would cause a cinephile religious fanatic to look skyward and try to negotiate with God to restore “London After Midnight” in exchange for erasing all copies of this production.
“The Flintstones: On the Rocks” opens with an angry Fred and a depressed Wilma bearing their souls in the office of a diminutive marriage counselor named Dr. Schwartzenquartz. The therapist tries to solve the couple’s problems through role playing, with each pretending to be the other. Fred dramatizes Wilma as a lazy ninny who bursts into tears at the tiniest suggestion of annoyance, while Wilma presents Fred as a crass dope who is more interested in hanging out with his best friend Barney. When Fred reveals Wilma dyes her red hair, she turns violent and begins to attack Fred and destroy the therapist’s office.
The next day while at work in the Slate & Co. rock quarry, Fred believes he is going to receive a promotion. But his boss, Mr. Slate, gives the promotion to Barney. Fred is furious, and things get more difficult when Barney and his wife Betty turn up at Fred and Wilma’s house to celebrate their wedding anniversary. Fred and Wilma each forgot the anniversary date and start a fight, but Barney tries to mollify matters by announcing a wedding gift: Barney and Betty are taking Fred and Wilma on an all-expenses-paid trip to the resort town of Rockapulco.
But the change of scenery does not change the Flintstones’ troubled marriage. Fred finds himself flirting with a sexy senorita while Wilma gets the intention of a blonde hunk – but unbeknownst to her, he’s really a jewel thief in pursuit of a purloined gem that somehow wound up in Wilma’s possession.
Four people were credited with writing “The Flintstones: On the Rocks,” but none of them seemed to possess a sense of humor. The script is crude and mean-spirited without ever once detouring into situations that were genuinely funny, and the vicious relationship between Fred and Wilma is closer in spirit to Edward Albee than Hanna-Barbera. The biggest problem is Fred’s personality, which is pathologically abusive throughout most of the film. In one scene that is astonishing for the wrong reasons, Fred teases his pet dinosaur Dino into believing he is joining them on the trip, only to berate the animal’s intelligence by forcing him to stay alone at home, adding he’s not to “do anything stupid” while on his solitary watch, which causes the poor creature to cry. This is supposed to be amusing?
The film also inserts a lot of supposedly adult humor into the mix – or, at least, a puerile concept of what adult comedy is all about. Thus, we have Fred coming home from work and heading to the bathroom for an (offscreen) excretory relief followed by a too-loud toilet flush. Later on, Fred mistakes the hotel room’s bidet for a water fountain. Fred and Barney also march their blubbery bodies around the hotel pool while wearing tight thongs, causing the other guests to cover their mouths and hold in their vomit. Are you laughing yet?
Even if the script managed to come within the vicinity of being spot-on, the animation is so crude that it makes Gene Deitch’s Tom and Jerry cartoons look like grand works of art. Hanna-Barbera used to take a lot of criticism for its limited animation style, but “The Flintstones: On the Rocks” is the tackiest and ugliest animation imaginable. Fred and Barney have too-big noses, Wilma and Betty have heads that are too tremendous for their bodies, and everyone moves in a spastic manner.
Cartoon Network may have realized it had a major bomb with “The Flintstones: On the Rocks.” The film had a single U.S. telecast on November 3, 2001, and was later shown once in Japan. To date, there has been no home entertainment release in any format. This was also the last (to date) original production using “The Flintstones” characters.
An unauthorized posting of this film can be found on the Internet Archive site – how long it stays there is anyone’s guess, as Warner Bros. Animation is usually pretty swift in removing bootleg postings. Hopefully, they find and erase it quickly, because no one should be wasting their time watching this crap.
IMPORTANT NOTICE: While this weekly column acknowledges the presence of rare film and television productions through the so-called collector-to-collector market, this should not be seen as encouraging or condoning the unauthorized duplication and distribution of copyright-protected material, either through DVDs or Blu-ray discs or through postings on Internet video sites.
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