In my last article, we discussed the Academy Award winning films from 1994. Those were supposed to be the best movies of the year but what about the movies that we all saw? Or at least most of us. What of the blockbusters that made tons of money and had lines of people chomping at the bit to get in? Today, I will be covering the top six highest-grossing movies of the year. Why six? Because I already covered one of these films in my previous piece which can be found here.
1994 was a good year at the box office as the numbers will show. It’s hard to find a common thread with these six movies. When it comes to legacy, the long lasting impact can be mixed. The movies in question for today are The Lion King, Forrest Gump, Speed, True Lies, The Mask, and The Flintstones. The Lion King just received a remake this year. Forrest Gump and Speed did wonders for the careers of Tom Hanks and Keanu Reeves. The Mask caps off what was an amazing year for Jim Carrey. True Lies and The Flintstones….. exist? But now to dig into the movies that made truck loads of cash for their respective studio.
The Lion King – Worldwide Gross: $763,455,561
The Lion King continued a string of great successes that Disney had with animated films in the 90’s and well before that for that matter. Starting with The Little Mermaid in 1989 and continuing with movies like Aladdin and Beauty and the Beast, Disney made animated films that were more than just great children’s movies but excellent films in their own right. With solid storytelling, top notch film making, and catchy soundtracks, these movies became the gold standard for movies in the 90’s. The Lion King is no different.
The “circle of life” starts for Simba as it does for all of us with his birth. He is the son of the King Mufasa which means someday he will become the king. Simba “just can’t wait to be king” but his Uncle Scar has prepared other plans. Scar works with a group of hyenas to orchestrate the death of Mufasa and make Simba think it was his fault. Believing he is responsible for his father’s death, Simba escapes to the desert. He is found barely alive by Timon and Pumbaa, a meerkat and warhog respectively. They take him to the safe haven of the jungle. Simba finds himself a lion with no home so Timon and Pumbaa take him in, teaching him their worry free way of life. Putting the past behind him, Simba live the “hakuna matata” way of life, growing from a cub to a young lion. He is having a fine time drifting aimlessly through the jungle with his friends until one day an old friend of his tries to hunt and kill Pumbaa. Simba runs in for the rescue and this lioness is Nala, to whom he has been promised for marriage. They “feel the love tonight” and then Nala encourages Simba to return to the Pride Lands. Under Scar’s leadership, the Pride Lands have become a wasteland. Simba refuses to return. He is comfortable with his aimless life and can’t face everyone back home after his father’s death. Simba storms off to collect his thoughts and runs into Rafiki, the mandrill who was present at Simba’s birth. Rafiki lets Simba know that Mufasa lives on in him. Simba speaks with the spirit of his father in the stars. Mufasa tells him that Simba must take his place amongst the great kings and unseat Scar. With help from his friends, Simba confronts Scar. Scar tells everyone that Simba killed Mufasa which tears up Simba inside but everyone else has seen enough of Scar’s reign. Simba’s friends take the hyenas but it’s Simba who takes on Scar. Scar has Simba on the ledge exactly like he did Mufasa and can’t help but gloat about the first murder he committed. Simba hulks up and takes down Scar, who begs for mercy, blaming the whole thing on the hyenas. Simba banishes him forever which Scar doesn’t take well. A sneak attack fails and Scar is left to the mercy of the hyenas, who are very hungry. Simba reigns as king, prosperity is restored to the land, and the Circle of Life continues.
At the time, The Lion King was the highest grossing animated film of all-time for Disney. Currently, it is third at Disney behind Frozen and Zootopia. It is the tenth highest grossing animated film of all time and the forty-fifth among all films. The Lion King was nominated for four Academy Awards. It won two, for Best Score and Best Original Song (“Can You Feel the Love Tonight”.) Speaking of songs, the soundtrack sold over ten million copies. That would make it the best selling soundtrack of the year. The awards and accolades for The Lion King are so numerous that listing them here would be pointless and take all day. Needless to say, this movie connected with audiences in a big way. “Can You Feel the Love Tonight” and “Circle of Life” were played on mainstream pop stations throughout the year. It is fitting that this movie is so remembered for it’s music as The Lion King would be adapted as a Broadway play and become one of the most successful musicals of all time. If you are visiting New York, The Lion King is still playing to this day and is the third longest running show in the history of Broadway. The success of The Lion King led to an afternoon cartoon series starring Timon and Pumbaa called appropriately The Lion King’s Timon and Pumbaa, which ran from 1995 to 1999.
I think many of us will fondly remember The Lion King game which was released on NES, SNES, and Sega Genesis. I played the Genesis version and it’s an infinitely playable game. It’s a side scrolling, platformer which follows the events of the movies from stage to stage. Appropriately, the game has been praised for it’s visuals and music. If you live in Europe, this was the last game released on the NES. During a time when most games based on movies and television shows were epicly bad, The Lion King and the Disney series of games during the 16-bit generation were exceptional. The amount of care put into those games to make them fun and engaging was amazing and something you didn’t always see back then.
The Lion King might be one of the greatest things to ever come out of the House of Mouse and that is high praise. When you watch this movie, keep in mind that it was hand-drawn by people. The only thing they used computers for was the stampede sequence, which took two years to make. The amount of detail and layering that went into creating the animation was impressive on a level that has never been seen before or since by a film created with hand drawn animation. Over 600 artists, animators, and technicians worked on creating this movie. Generally, most people aren’t interested in watching special features on the DVD set but I really recommend you watch some of the documentaries to fully appreciate what went into making this movie. On a film making level, the scope and ambition of the film was simply amazing. I already mentioned the music but it bares repeating that they were on fire when making this movie. Every song fit perfectly into the movie. “Hakuna Matata”, “Circle of Life”, “Be Prepared”, “I Just Can’t Wait To Be King”, and “Can You Feel the Love Tonight”, all of them are great songs set to great animated sequences. Even Hans Zimmer’s score was firing on all cylinders. To make sure that this isn’t just nostalgia speaking, I had my kids watch this movie just to see what they thought of it. They loved it. I feel like the movie still holds up and has a timeless quality to it. I can say with confidence that 1994’s The Lion King is a movie that will live forever and people will be watching for many future generations.
Forrest Gump – Worldwide Gross: $677,945,399
I covered Forrest Gump in detail in my previous article. Forrest Gump is about a simple man that somehow finds himself at the center of nearly every significant event of the last half of the 20th Century. Because of his simple nature, he is completely oblivious to the gravity of the events happening around him. The movie was a surprise hit which launched Tom Hanks’ career into a completely different direction than that which it had been on, brought in a ton of money for Paramount, and won the Oscar for Best Picture. If there is anything I failed to mention in the first article, it would be the technical achievement that Forrest Gump was. Industrial Lights & Magic worked on the visual effects for this movie and how much of this movie was created by CGI is surprising. Of course, there are the scenes were Forrest Gump is inserted into archival footage meeting with JFK, Lyndon Johnson,and Richard Nixon. They had to line up Hanks while shooting him against a blue screen and he had to create those scenes with nothing to play off of. They brought in voice actors to record the lines of the Presidents then alter the original footage of the to match the lines being spoken. They then had to find ways to blend Hanks seamlessly into the footage. These scenes all worked for me and still hold up. Another scene that stands out to me is the one where Forrest is rescuing Bubba a napalm strike in Vietnam. I had no idea how much of that scene used CGI. It was an incredibly well done sequence which did an excellent job hiding all the tricks they used to make it looked as those Forrest was running away from an explosion while carrying someone out of the jungle. They used CGI to remove Lt. Dan’s legs and made that look convincing. Some movies have difficulty removing someone’s mustache and making it look good. In the years after 1994, the movie industry will rely more heavily on CGI. There are many movies where the effects are obviously contrived and take the viewer out of the movie with just how bad they look. It takes a level of craftsmanship and care to make the effects look as real as possible and on that level, Forrest Gump succeed. And that’s all I have to say about that.
True Lies – Worldwide Gross: $378,882,411
Harry Tasker, played by Arnold Schwarzenegger, lives a double life of secret agent for the shadowy Omega Sector and that of a workaholic family man. He has been lying to his wife for years about what his real job is and she is none the wiser. Helen, played by Jamie Lee Curtis, is tiptoeing around having a possible affair with used car salesman Simon, played by Bill Paxton. Simon is lying to Helen, telling her he is a secret agent to add some spice to her otherwise dull life. Harry suspects his wife may be having an affair so he uses the resources of a quasi-governmental spy organization to find out about what she is up to, harass her would-be boyfriend, and in the process put her in grave danger. In addition to that, they have a troubled teenage daughter played by Eliza Dushku. This ties into a subplot about an Arab terrorist organization that has acquired four nuclear warheads and have some big plans to use them.
True Lies has everything. Heart-pounding action sequences, romance, intrigue, drama, comedy that is well placed and doesn’t take away from the drama, and Schwarzenegger one-liners. So why didn’t I like it very much? This the first time I had seen this movie and I think I was expecting something closer to Mr. and Mrs. Smith, a far superior movie in my estimation. I was expecting that Jamie Lee Curtis would be revealed to be a spy as well, for a rival organization, working the same case, adding a level of drama to their already strained marriage. Or that Bill Paxton would be actually working with the terrorists and the used car salesmen ploy was a plot to draw out Harry. But instead they just play it straight as these two people having an affair. Harry using his job as a super secret spy to snoop on his unfaithful wife really doesn’t play well in a now post-9/11 world. With things like The Patriot Act, unwarranted wire taps, and government surveillance on civilians, too much has happened in the last 25 years for this to all be played off as whimsical or endearing. At one point Harry and his partner Gibs, played by Tom Arnold, kidnap Helen and Simon in the back of their spy van. Harry roughs up Simon a little, telling him to stay away from his wife. It comes off as a humorous enough scene even if it is a bit petty and vengeful. However, when Harry and Gibs interrogate Helen in a room with a two way mirror and voice altering technology, it comes off as extremely creepy. Harry’s plan to romance Helen by making her work a case for his spy group is equally creepy. This results in the couple getting taken by the real terrorists and the interesting part of the movie can start again. This middle part of the movie where Harry is trying to unravel his wives affair and play a prank on her drags on way too long. The pacing is off and it really interrupted the flow of the movie. It’s made all the worse when you realize that the terrorists have four nuclear weapons and Harry has no real leads to work off of. Instead of focusing on not letting U.S. cities get nuked, he places his attention on harassing his wife and her friend.
True Lies is a movie that works so long as you don’t spend too much time thinking about it. Dana, the teenage daughter placed by Eliza Dushku is a good example. She is barely in the film. We see her steal some money from her dad and hop on her boyfriend’s motorcycle, a clear sign that something is wrong. We don’t hear from her again until she is kidnapped by terrorists. I forgot she was even in the movie up to that point and it comes off as some sloppy writing. As if the writers planned out some great action sequences but they needed a reason to have them happen so why not have the daughter get kidnapped? I guess the idea is that if Harry saves his daughter it will repair their fractured relationship but is that really how that would happen? At the end of the movie, Helen becomes a super spy too and now the couple work together on cases of international intrigue. But what about Dana? Now both of her parents are gone all the time, jet setting to Monte Carlo while she is left to her own devices. Is her life really better with both of her parents in the spy game? Shouldn’t Harry be fired for misusing company resources. Sure, he saved the day from the terrorists but couldn’t he have prevented a lot of property damage and lost lives if he hadn’t been dicking around looking into his wife’s personal affairs? And why would they make Helen a part of this spy organization? She is a legal secretary. They don’t just pull any schmoe off the streets to be an international person of mystery. Point is, there is a really clever movie just under the surface and if the writing had been tightened up a little, this could have been a much better movie.
Where True Lies excels is in it’s action sequences and special effects. James Cameron is as good as he ever was in this respect. The filming took several months, they threw every idea they had for an action scene up on the screen and it really shows. One example is the opening sequence where Harry sneaks into a dinner party to gain access to some top secret files and sweep Juno, played by Tia Carrere, off her feet. Carrere is looking amazing in this movie although her character could have used more motivation beyond wanting to make piles of money. This opening action scene is very reminiscent of a James Bond movie. Tom Arnold was particularly funny in this part of the film, trying to organize the operation, navigate icy roads, all while Harry guns down bad guys and blows stuff up. All of the action sequences are over the top with lots of big concepts playing out and tons of moving parts. No one can argue that James Cameron isn’t one of the best action movie directors there have ever been. True Lies may not be as visually impressive as Avatar or Titanic but you can see that compared with other movies of the action genre, Cameron is not to be out done.
True Lies would be not only the third highest grossing film of the year but also the third highest grossing film of Arnold Schwarzenegger’s career, behind only Terminator 2 and Terminator 3. When discussing Arnold movies with a group, this is one that isn’t going to be brought up much but it did surprisingly well. There was also a video game on the SNES and Genesis for which the mileage may vary but it did quite well on each system. For such a successful movie, it is hard to say what the legacy for True Lies is. Everyone involved in the film were already established entities so it’s not like this did much for the careers of Arnold Schwarzenegger, Jamie Lee Curtis, or James Cameron other than keep them on the footing they had already been on. Judging from online commentary, the film hasn’t aged well in the eyes of some viewers, many people calling True Lies offensive. It has yet to get a Blu-Ray or 4K release. I would be very interested to hear what The Nation thinks of this film because I have a hard time placing it with other Arnold or James Cameron movies.
The Mask – Worldwide Gross: $351,583,407
The best year of Jim Carrey’s career rolls on. If you were drafting people for 1994, Jim Carrey would be on the top of most draft boards. He starts out the year with Ace Ventura: Pet Detective, which does fine at the box office but really found it’s audience on VHS. Dumb and Dumber comes out in the middle of the year, taking the momentum from Ace Ventura and launching Jim Carrey to even greater heights. Near the end of the year, The Mask drops and it solidifies Jim Carrey has a major box office draw. It’s hard to think of any actor who has had a year like that. If you would like to hear more about Dumb and Dumber, I would recommend this excellent podcast.
Stanley Ipkiss, played by Jim Carrey, is the definition of the nice guy who finishes last. He is a low-level bank employee who everyone pretty much walks over except his best friend Charlie, played by Richard Jeni. Charlie encourages Stanley to show some confidence and put himself out there. Their friendship is pretty endearing even if Charlie can come off as a bit of a sleaze. Charlie invites Stanley to the club but he can’t get in because they just don’t want him in there. Stanley stands by his broken down car when he runs into Tina, played by Cameron Diaz, in her film debut. He met her earlier at his bank and was charming enough but locked up like the brakes on his old car. While driving home in defeat, he stalls out on a bridge. While beating up on the car, he spies what appears to be a person in the water. When he dives in all Stanley finds is a mask. Stanley makes his way home where he is harassed by his landlady. He goes to his apartment and eventually puts on The Mask, becoming a living cartoon character. Everything he does is straight out of a Looney Tunes Cartoon. Giant mallets, bombs in his pocket, bug-eyed reactions, his joking demeanor, and so much more makes the character of The Mask wildly different than that of Stanley. So whereas Stanley would have stayed at home with his dog watching cartoons, The Mask heads out on the town, causing mischief. In the morning, Stanley has no idea what has happened and the authorities are asking questions about The Mask. Through the events of the film, Stanley must learn how to show more confidence without The Mask and how to break up a criminal enterprise with it on while being a complete goofball.
The Mask is a wildly entertaining film that still held up for me. While not the deepest film in terms of plot, it’s well structured and holds up well these twenty five years later. Stanley deals with the consequences of what The Mask does during the day while The Mask is tussling with the Mob at night. Edge City is the fictional city in which the movie takes place. I really appreciate the world building and look of this city. It’s a city that is somewhere between the 1930’s and 1990’s. The center of this town seems to be the Coco Bongo Club and the people really like swing music, putting them ahead of that trend by about five years. The world that The Mask occupies at night has a fantasy element to it where as the day time world of Stanley has a crushing modernity, with it’s pollution, over crowding, and hum drum nature. At one point Stanley visits a psychiatrist played by Ben Stein to try and understand what is happening with The Mask. Turns out The Mask only works at night so Stanley ends up looking like an insane person when talking about the issues he is dealing with. Everything about this and the other daytime scenes are grounded in a realism. Stanley gets ripped off and hassled by mechanics during the day, something we can all relate to. At night, he shows up as The Mask and gets a measure of revenge against them while they are sitting around playing cards, a wicked fantasy for sure but one that people with habitually broken down cars can sort of relate to. My question is why are these mechanics hanging out at work into the wee hours of the night? During the day, the police and journalists are on top of investigating crimes involving The Mask. At night, mobster Dorian Tyrell, who looks like he could have been Matthew McConaughey but is actually played by Peter Greene, runs his criminal enterprise with impunity.
The Mask was a huge hit and it’s all Jim Carrey that is the draw for this movie. I remember the movies rendition of Cuban Pete being played as a music video on MTV, back when they used to show those kind of things. The movie lead to an animated series which I remember being pretty ok. Also there would be a sequel starring Jamie Kennedy, which is best left forgotten. It is also interesting that this was Cameron Diaz first movie. She was a natural and had good chemistry with Jim Carrey. Every couple of years there are rumbles about getting Jim Carrey to make a proper sequel to The Mask. I expect it to happen eventually. With Jim Carrey taking a job as Doctor Eggman in the Sonic the Hedgehog Movie, he will probably chase that Mask 2 paycheck before too long. Then we might have a better sense of what the legacy of this movie is. For people who saw it at the time, it is fondly remembered, fun-loving romp. I don’t know that the younger generation has gone back to view this film or what they think of it. Whether The Mask is evergreen remains to be seen, but it will always be remembered as one of the three films from this year that made Jim Carrey an A-Lister.
Speed – Worldwide Gross: $350,448,145
Pop Quiz Hot Shot. There is a bomb on a bus. The bomb is armed once the bus goes over 50 mph. The bomb explodes once the bus goes under 50 mph. What do you do? In terms of trailers, is there anything that has ever explained a movie more concisely and been so effective? I imagine this was also the elevator pitch for this movie. Speed is so much more than just the bomb on a bus scenario but that line was a really good hook to draw in the audience. 1994 was a pretty good year for the action movie. You have the aforementioned True Lies, A Clear and Present Danger, and The Crow. A tier below that you had movies like On Deadly Ground, Surviving the Game, and Beverly Hills Cop 3. Then you were kind of scraping the bottom of the barrel with some of the action releases to theaters, like Double Dragon, The Shadow, Street Fighter, and Blown Away. The point is that the studios thought enough of the action genre to send a healthy number of action movies to the theaters. Speed is a tricky movie to review. I can’t call it exceptional because it relied on quite a few action movie tropes. It doesn’t try to reinvent the genre, most of what happens here is pretty typical for the genre. Best I can say is that Speed is an action movie done right.
Often when a review says a movie is a nonstop thrill ride, that means the reviewer has nothing to say or wasn’t paying attention to the movie. Speed is very fast-paced in terms of the action. It could be called Worst Case Scenario: The Movie. From the first scene where Dennis Hopper’s character, Howard Payne, stabs a security guard in the head. Hopper’s performance is one of the high points of this movie. The character is not at all subtle and the acting reflects that. His dialogue is feels like it needs another polish in the writing but the way Hopper delivers it is brilliant. I wouldn’t change a line. Payne strategically places bombs in an elevator at the beginning of the movie. He then demands a ransom or he will blow up the elevator along with everyone in it. The LAPD is called in to deal with the situation. Our hero Jack, played by Keanu Reeves, makes an entrance like a champ, with his car jumping about 20 feet in the air over a hill on the way to the scene. Jack volunteers himself and his partner Harry, played by Jeff Daniels, for the most dangerous assignment, right on top of the action. If you were drafting people for 1994, Jeff Daniels would be a good mid-round pick. If you are a binge of 1994 movies, you will get to appreciate Daniels acting chops by watching Speed and Dumb and Dumber back to back. You can see that he has a lot of range as an actor. Oddly enough, his character in both movies is named Harry.
This opening scene establishes a few important things. First that Jack thinks fast on his feet as well as outside of the box. Harry is the bomb expert while Jack has the bravery to get up close to the bombs to inspect them. They make a good team. Jack uses a crane from a near by construction site to hang onto the elevator car while the bombs explode the cables. Of course, because nothing in this movie can be simple, the crane starts to give way and they get the hostages out in the nick of time. And because this is Speed, Jack immediately realizes that Howard is in a near by freight elevator. So after a heart-pounding action sequence, we get another heart-pounding action sequence. Harry gets taken hostage by Howard, who has strapped a bomb to himself to ensure his escape. Jack’s solution to the problem is to shoot the hostage, in the leg to be exact. Howard quickly slips away saying “Mwahahah!” as he heads for a parking garage and seemingly blows himself up.
The movie takes a bit of a lull as Harry and Jack are honored for their actions in taking down the bomber. But it is revealed that Howard is alive and well, watching the ceremony on television and applauding their efforts sarcastically. So one morning Jack is out buying a muffin when a bus explodes. Howard calls on a pay phone and lays out the situation for Jack. A bomb is on a bus. When it hits 50, the bomb will activate, when it goes below 50 the bus blows up. Howard tells him which bus and we are off to the races. Meanwhile, Annie, played by Sandra Bullock, gets on a bus with a cast of characters. I didn’t catch the character’s name but one of them is a tourist played by Alan Ruck, who was Cameron in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. I prefer to think this is Cameron visiting L.A. Jack hijacks a car and tracks down the bus. He manages to jump on the bus. Everything that can go wrong does. The main plot device is keeping the bus over 50. It certainly builds tension. When Jack writes a note telling them there is a bomb on the bus, the drivers instinct is to slow down. Jack tries to tell the people on the bus what is happening when a criminal gets nervous and shoots the bus driver. Annie takes the wheel and she doesn’t know how to drive. Of course, because it’s L.A., they hit traffic. Having to keep above 50, Annie takes an exit and runs into everything along the way. Now they are maintaining 50 on Western Ave, which as a former L.A. resident, I can tell you is the most unrealistic thing about this movie. The movie keep rolling like this. A complication will pop up, Jack has to find a way around it, another one pops up. The whole time Harry is trying to find out who Howard is. Turns out he used to be former bomb squad. He lost a finger in an accident and got screwed out of his pension, which is why Howard is doing all this crazy stuff.
They get the bus on the yet to be completed 105 Freeway and for a while that solves the problem of having to keep the speed up to 50 mph. Howard is watching the whole thing on the news but he also has a camera on the bus. If they try to get any passengers off, he will blow up the bus. They come up on the incomplete part of the 105 and have to get the bus to move as fast as it can to make the jump, an incredibly exciting part of the movie. Jack thinks fast and gets the bus onto the tarmac at the airport. Now they can keep the bus moving but how are they going to get the people off. Meanwhile, Harry finds Howard’s house and it was rigged to blow up. Turns out, he wasn’t home. He calls Jack to taunt him about it. With the situation getting more desperate, Jack find a way under the bus to take a look at the bomb. Everything with the operation goes wrong and he manages to get back on the bus but not without popping a hole in the gas tank. Time is running out when Jack realizes the reason Howard has been calling Annie ‘Wildcat’ is because of her University of Arizona shirt she has on. They trace the line for the camera and play some footage on a loop. This way they can get the people off the bus and Howard will be none the wiser. Now just Annie and Jack are on the bus. The sexual chemistry starts to heat up and they think of a way to get off the bus without blowing up with it. They find a very suggestive way off the bus but it’s not over yet. The LAPD agree to make the cash drop for Howard. He finds out that the bus has exploded and reacts over the top. He still has a plan though. He kidnaps Annie and makes his way to a train. Jack tracks him down and it’s the final showdown. Let’s just say that Howard doesn’t get ahead.
I love this movie. It keeps on moving. The dialogue is great. Dennis Hopper is fantastic and very enjoyable in this over-the-top performance. Keanu Reeves really came across well in this movie. I have to believe that the success of Speed helped get him cast in The Matrix. Before this, I don’t know that people would have taken him seriously as an action star. Speed did big things for Keanu. I think Sandra Bullock came out of the movie looking good too. She would go on to be in the ill fated sequel, Speed 2: Cruise Control. But mostly she would be the leading lady in many Rom Coms among other things. The writing was very tight. The dialogue was witty but took the situation serious the whole time. Speed was a very ambitious production. On a budget of $30 million, they got every nickel they could out of that money. A lot of these stunts had to be very difficult to pull off. Watching this movie again, I had a greater appreciation for what it must have taken to make the movie. Speed was one of the movies they would use in film school as an example of what to do in action movies. Most movies are happy to have a handful of action sequences as exciting as Speed. Somehow, they kept the story moving with most of the movie taking place on a bus. That is incredibly challenging to do. In addition to that, the action sequences lead one into the next, not leaving the audience much time to breath. You would think that would burn out an audience but it worked really well. Speed is just a fun movie. It won three Oscars, all for editing and sound design. The legacy of Speed will probably be that of the fun, summer action movie that takes audiences by storm. They don’t happen as often as they used to but every now and again one will come along and prove that audience love this type of movie.
The Flintstones – Worldwide Gross: $341,631,208.
I saw this movie in theaters back in 1994 and I will be damned if I can’t say why. I wasn’t that big of a fan of the show. I was speaking with some other people from our generation and it seems like the story is the same. Didn’t really like The Flintstones that much but saw it in theaters anyway. This came out Memorial Day weekend and I suspect that many of our parents sent us to the theaters to be rid of us for a couple of hours. Still, I remember liking the movie back then, even if there wasn’t much I could remember from it aside from Halle Berry. I was genuinely shocked to see how much money The Flintstones made, beating out Dumb and Dumber for the sixth spot overall for 1994. Having watched this movie recently, The Flintstones is a really underrated movie.
The Flintstones greatest feature is how much this feels like the show and how much they got right. John Goodman stars as Fred and he plays it perfectly. I can’t imagine anyone else playing Fred Flintstone this well. The same for Rick Moranis as Barney Rubble. Every character feels like they came right from the television to the movie screen. You can’t take this for granted in an adaptation. A lot of adaptations fail to get anything about the original right outside of the name on the poster and the name of the characters. Every inch of The Flintstones was made with obvious love and care for the show. The production design that takes modern things and remake them in a Stone Age way was impressive. They remake the opening and closing of the original show, complete with the theme song and all of it looks exactly right. The story seems like it could be an episode of the show. A corporate executive needs someone he can pin his crime on as he robs the company blind. So he does this by having all the rank and file workers take an aptitude test. Meanwhile, Fred lends some money to Barney so that he can adopt Bam Bam, who will be his and his wife, Betty’s son. Barney vows to pay back Fred and does so by swapping their tests. As a result, Fred gets the big promotion and now, finally he is going to be a somebody. He’s moving up in the world, making more money, and letting it go to his head. Barney gets saddled with Fred’s test results which were so poor that he got fired. This puts hard times on the Rubble household and they stay with The Flintstones until they can get back on their feet. Well, Fred gets very full of himself and forgets who his real friends are. Half of the quarry gets laid off, making Fred hated among everyone who had been his work mates. This builds to a head where Barney is working as a bus boy at a club that Fred, Wilma, and Betty are attending. Barney gets sick of Fred’s attitude and tells everyone that he swapped the tests. This creates a riff between The Flintstones and The Rubbles. While Wilma doesn’t know what to believe, she is also sick of Fred’s attitude. As we go into our third act, the corporate stooge, Cliff Vandercave, reveals to Fred that he has been playing him the whole time. Cliff flat out tells him that he is being framed with embezzlement. Fred, with nowhere to turn and no one to turn to, goes into hiding. All of the evidence that Fred is innocent is on a Dictabird which recorded every conversation in Fred’s office. Betty and Wilma capture the bird. Fred gets caught by an angry mob and as his friend, Barney gets rounded up by the mob too. Fred realizes that he has been a jerk all along and right before he is taken out by the angry crowd, he apologizes for everything he has done. So just in the nick of time, Betty and Wilma prove Fred’s innocence. With everything revealed, Fred stops Cliff from absconding with the money by accidentally inventing concrete and trapping Cliff in stone. Mr. Slate sees this and offers Fred a big promotion. Fred turns it down because when he finally became a somebody, he became somebody he didn’t like. He just wants to have his old job back along with all the other laid off workers. Fred and Barney are friends again, everything is back to normal.
If you are a fan of the show, The Flintstones movie delivers. From the jokes to the way they are delivered, everything is authentic to the show. It’s hard to say what people who have never seen The Flintstones would think of this movie. I thought it was an enjoyable movie. It is a film that doesn’t get much love these twenty five years later. The follow up prequel released in 2000, The Flinstones In Viva Rock Vegas and the direct to video sequels I believe hurt this film a bit. There are a ton of bad sequels starring different actors and I think there may have been “Flintstones Fatigue.” I would recommend people go back and watch this film. Ultimately, the legacy of this film will be as a surprise hit that was just a product made by a studio for the purposes of making piles of money. There was no higher purpose to The Flintstones. I do think credit should be give to everyone involved for taking the care they did with the source material. The people who were handed this assignment made it with love and it shows.