Mister Invisible challenged me to review this film (whether as a follow-up to my review of Land of the Lost or as punishment for making him watch Undead last Fall, I’m not entirely sure) which is, quite frankly, pretty far out of the kind of “bad” movie I usually favor. For some reason junk that’s at least as old as I am always seems more inviting than misfires of recent years, and I generally try to avoid unsuccessful comedies and big screen versions of TV shows-doubly show if said shows were originally cartoons. Far be it for me to ever avoid a bad-movie-watching challenge, so I gritted my teeth and requested this from the library network my library is part of, knowing full well the Circ staff would mock me mercilessly for requesting, not just a “kids” movie, but one on VHS (what can I say, I have something of a reputation). The only thing I was looking forward to, or could remember (other than the film being a prequel to the more successful 1994 live-action Flintstones adaptation) about the film was that the always fun to watch Jane Krakowski (Go) was in it.
Viva Rock Vegas was an unanticipated and unasked for prequel to the much more successful 1994 film. Unsurprisingly, this film, which lacks star power, looks reasonably shoddy by 2000 standards in terms of effects and scale, and runs through a by-the-numbers script failed to duplicate The Flintstones success, making only $35 million at the box office on a $58 million budget, as compared to the $130 million for the earlier film. Unsurprisingly, Universal hasn’t released any further live-action Flintstones films.
This film sees misfit alien The Great Gazoo (Alan Cumming, Goldeneye, doing his best Leslie Howard impersonation for no apparent reason) sent to the primitive backwater Earth to watch human mating rituals. He just happens to run into Fred Flintstone ( Mark Addy, The Full Monty) and Barney Rubble (Stephen Baldwin, The Beast), who just passed their crane operating exams to work in the quarries and are now looking for love. Meanwhile, rich girl Wilma Slaghoople (Kristen Johnson, 3rd Rock from the Sun) can’t take her overbearing mother Pearl (Joan Collins, Empire of the Ants), senile father the Colonel (Harvey Korman, The Star Wars Holiday Special), or smarmy suitor Chip Rockefeller (Thomas Gibson, Far and Away) anymore. She’s tired of the dull, rich life, and wants to experience exciting things like bowling, so she runs away. Wilma hooks up with car hop Betty O’Shale (Krakowski), who mistakenly thinks she’s homeless and takes her in and gets her a job at the drive in. After a chance meeting, the two pairs of friends meet up, go on a date to a carnival, and then, through one standard sitcom/romcom misunderstanding after another end up at Chip’s new Rock Vegas casino on his dime. There Chip will attempt to drive a wedge between Wilma and Fred-because he needs to marry the wealthy Wilma to pay off his mob investors. Meanwhile, a ridiculous misunderstanding between Barney and Betty results in Betty palling around with Mick Jagged of the Stones (also Cumming). Can these crazy kids get together?
So the plot is pretty basic, dumb, and standard-so are plenty of other comedies that manage to be entertaining. The real killer here is that director Brian Levant (Problem Child 2) and four screenwriters forgot to add any comedy. The jokes are either groan-inducing puns, sight gags that invariably involve creepy looking creatures that function as appliances, or unfunny potty jokes. Why bring back the Great Gazoo, a character generally considered the mark of when the old animated series jumped the shark? It’s as if the film is trying to fail. It’s sad seeing veteran Korman dragged into all this (he was the voice of the original Great Gazoo, and I’m unclear why they didn’t just have him reprise that role and keep Cumming for the Mick Jagged scenes, which, by the way, are a total missed opportunity) although this is hardly the first time he’s appeared in an awful sequel.
On top of this there’s the casting, which is pretty mixed. Addy makes an okay Flintstone, though he’s a little short when paired with the Amazonian Johnson. Johnson, who was hot at the time due to the success of 3rd Rock is an interesting choice for Wilma, but between the awful script which gives her nothing to do, and the unflattering close-ups of her flaring nostrils, by the end of the film you would be happy to never see her in a film again. Baldwin is awful as Rubble, playing him less as Fred’s goofy, somewhat dim neighbor than as a demented, idiot five-year old in an overly buff body. Barney should not be buff, and Baldwin’s stupid act is creepy. Krakowski is good as Betty, but, again, other than looking great she’s not given much to do but smile and be dumb (I don’t recall either Wilma or Betty being this idiotic in the series).
Finally, the film looks cheap, despite a larger budget than the previous film (with less well-known and presumably cheaper stars). Some of the dinosaurs are okay and some of the props are amusing, but the occasionally shoddy looking “stone” props, lame CG and creepy looking Dino and appliance animals make the film feel like a direct-to-video knock-off rather than a major production. Outside of dares by good friends or a Betty Rubble/Jane Krakowski fetish, there’s really no reason to see this film. The story is tired and predictable, the jokes awful, the scale strangely small feeling, the casting largely uninspired and bereft of joy.