American Fable is ambitious, maybe too much so sometimes, but there's an intense pleasure in the boldness of the film's style.
If "The Flintstones" had been able to devise a story as interesting as its production values, it would have been some kind of wonderful. This is a great-looking movie, a triumph of set design and special effects, creating a fantasy world halfway between suburbia and a prehistoric cartoon. The frame is filled with delightful and inventive notions, all based on the idea that modern America might somehow be reconstructed out of rocks. Just watching it is fun.
Following the plot is not so much fun.
It's strange, the parts of the movie you'd think would have been the trickiest are the ones that work best. Led by John Goodman, the actors successfully impersonate the classic cartoon characters, and look and sound convincing. And the world they inhabit is just right.
But the story is confusing, not very funny, and kind of odd, given the target audience of younger children and their families. Do kids really care much about office politics, embezzlement, marital problems, difficulties with adoption, aptitude exams and mothers-in-law? John Goodman stands foursquare at the center of the story, as Fred Flintstone, a repository of good nature, insecurity, and rock-headed stubbornness. Nagged at home by his mother-in-law (Elizabeth Taylor, looking terrific), who spurs his wife Wilma (Elizabeth Perkins) to discontent, he is generally happy at work. But he keeps hearing how he should be bringing home a bigger paycheck.