"Flintstones, meet the Flintstones, they're the modern stone-age famileee..." You know the rest. First a much-loved Hanna-Barbera TV show, then a big-budget stinker, the cartoon cavemen return in a wacky-thwacky prequel which suggests that the franchise may not be as yabba-dabba-doomed as you'd have expected.
Undemanding tots will adore this jurassic lark, which overflows with prehistoric puns, CG dinos and colourful sets and costumes. Adults, however, may be harder to please, though they will no doubt relish Joan Collins's game turn as Wilma's mother (played in the first movie by Dame Liz Taylor). Still, fans of the original animated series should enjoy comparing the new stars with their two-dimensional counterparts. The Full Monty's Mark Addy and Stephen Baldwin offer competent approximations, while Kristen Johnston merely recycles her brash Third Rock From The Sun persona. But the real stand-out is Jane Krakowski, whose deft performance as Betty suggests she could be a gifted comedienne once she steps out of Ally McBeal's shadow.
The film is at its best during the anarchic Rock Vegas sequences, when Fred accumulates massive gambling debts in an attempt to impress the wealthy Wilma, and Barney's fleeting dalliance with a sexy showgirl prompts Betty to take up with posturing rocker Mick Jagged (Alan Cumming). Listen closely, and you'll hear Ann-Margret murdering the title song from the movie (Viva Las Vegas) that made her name back in 1964.
But director Brian Levant and his four screenwriters weaken the scenario by having a pint-sized, green-skinned ET named The Great Gazoo (Cumming again) pass withering judgement on Fred and Barney's wooing technique. You'd think the arrival of a hovering homunculus from outer space would give our heroes pause, but they seem to take it all in their stride. Levant, meanwhile, lazily sidesteps further complications by only making Gazoo visible to Fred and Barney. For shame he made him visible to us as well. But ignore Gazoo, and chances are you'll have a gay old time.
A step up from the first film, this cheerful prequel is full of visual gags (watch out for Rosie O'Donnell's cameo as an octopus masseuse), while the cast tackle their roles with gusto. Shame about the daft alien subplot though.