The bar’s been set pretty low, folks.
Let’s skirt past the fact that the Flintstones are celebrating the birth of Jesus several thousand years before he was born, even less adapting a story written in 1843. The Stone age had its own Victorian age and we just need to accept that. Moving on.
We are not handed another Mickey Mouse/ Muppets/ Rich Little character-for-character adaptation. Instead, the good people of Bedrock are staging their own one night community production of A Christmas Carol with Fred Flintstone as Ebonezer Scrooge.
And boy, is Fred happy to be playing Scrooge. Despite still learning his lines on the afternoon of opening night he has sick delusions of making it big on Broadrock. Caught in the throes of acting he becomes neglectful of his family, rude to his coworkers and negligent at work. He forgets to buy any presents, he forgets to pick up Pebbles from daycare and he’s dismissive and demanding of Wilma. Poor Wilma. In addition to being stage manager she’s also had to pick up the wardrobe manager portfolio due to illness, the mysterious “Bedrock Bug”. Fred doesn’t deserve her. At the very least we can take solace in the fact that in the Flintstones, unlike The Honeymooners on which the show was based, she’s not constantly under threat of domestic abuse.
Who the fuck is this character? She says she wants to rehearse the “love scene” with Fred. In A Christmas Carol? What?
There’s a wiki dedicated to Christmas specials that I just discovered and their description of this scene is great:
“It is implied here that Fred is in a secret relationship with Maggie behind Wilma’s back”
Fred… you bastard.
He rushes out to buy emergency Christmas presents (which he pays for on his Mesozoic Express card) and gives them to a stranger, a tiny child, to stand in the gift wrapping line so he can go get ready for his play.
After setting up that Fred’s a big dickhead and everyone hates him we jump into the production of A Christmas Carol. Barney is Bob Cragit and the firm is Scrooge and Marbley.
They get around the narration issue nicely by having an actor off stage reading in the lines. The next 15 or so minutes are… a pretty faithful line for line adaptation of the original text. There isn’t any meta commentary and we almost forget that they’re staging a play. This becomes incredibly confusing later on .
We meet the chuggers and Fred.
I’ll assume we’re meant to know who they are. The Flinstones wiki is insistent that these are named characters but I have absolutely no idea who they are. Look, I watched The Flintstones as much as anyone did as a kid and even though I tuned out when they started introducing aliens I guarantee I have never seen these people before. Maybe that’s why they didn’t do a straightforward adaptation? Because there aren’t enough memorable Flintstones characters to fill all the requisite roles?
Across the whole show I can only think of maybe five or six adults and I just watched a 70 minute long Flintstones movie.
There are some kids outside having a snowball fight despite the fact that we just established that the stage snow was comprised entirely of animal feathers.
This inconsistency is pushed to its limit in the next scene. The Marley knocker.
What sort of fantastical stone age technology are they using to physically morph a tangible object into a translucent human head LIVE ON STAGE? If it’s meant to be the actor’s actual head, why is it considerably smaller than Fred’s?
This becomes a running theme. Scrooge has retired to his chambers and is about to be visited by Marley. I don’t know where on the stage they managed to fit his room but all four walls are clearly visible.
Again, this is a one night community theatre play.
Wilma takes over as the Ghost of Christmas Past as the actress comes down with that mysterious Bedrock Bug. She too is translucent. Fred turns translucent when he touches her. Wish I had this show’s production designer but he probably died 6000 years ago.
As you may have noticed, the animation is slightly better than the usual Flintstones fare. This is probably because it was made 30 years later with a higher budget. If you wanted to get a sense of what it’s like in action, think Tom and Jerry Kids. Probably same people involved, both were early 90s Hannah Barbera things.
How big is this fucking set? How are they changing it?
Immediately before they enter the schoolhouse, we have an act break. The curtain goes down. After a bit of backstage nonsense, it goes up again and Fred is playing Young Scrooge suddenly. How does that work? Never mind, we’re off to Fezziwig’s.
HOW BIG IS THIS FUCKING SET?!
In this scene we see Old Scrooge (intangible, played by Fred Flintstone) watching Young Scrooge (tangible, played by Fred Flintstone).
We meet Belle (played by Wilma because the original actress caught the Bedrock Beg) and then Belle breaks up with Scrooge as per the original. We then get ANOTHER act break. Barney specifically mentions this one is 10 minutes because Fred rushes back to the store to pick up his gift wrapped presents. No dice, Fred. He breaks into the department store (!!!) and is approached by a police officer called Philo Quartz, also the only black man in Bedrock. Philo lets him off (???) having also earlier let him off a charge of crossing a red light over the speed limit because Bedrock has modern era Zimbabwe levels of corruption.
They race through the next two ghosts. Lots of reality-breaking stage effects complimented by verbatim Dickens dialogue. It’s extremely surreal to watch.
At the epilogue now, Wilma has been cast one of the chuggers (Bedrock Bug) and ad libs with Fred. Fred admits he was being a right dickhead earlier on the film and that he’s a changed man. Wilma asks why? I also ask why. He says the events of the play changed his mind. Ok.
Tiny Tim was Bam Bam and he tries to deliver the “God Bless Us, Every One” line but gets stage fright and Pebbles jumps in and delivers it instead. Fred (Scrooge) and Wilma (that one male chugger, now wearing a dress) have a celebratory hug with Pebbles (one of Bob Cratchit’s children) and we end the play on the line:
“I’m not a Scrooge any more, I understand what’s really important. You and Pebbles and Barney and Betty.”
Yeah, fuck you Bam Bam. Can’t even say your lines right.
The film ends like this. Fred isn’t ever punished for leaving his Christmas shopping to the last minute, putting it all on the credit card and then delegating it to a seemingly orphaned child. At least he thanked Wilma. Still doesn’t deserve her though.
This was an odd one. It was a terrible film, an average Flintstones episode and a fairly accurate reproduction of the Christmas Carol story, beat for beat, line for line.
3 John Goodmans and Rick Moranises out of 10
I’m getting my second wind, I can feel it. This may change because I know what I’m watching next.