Top-Down Smackdown: Fruity Pebbles


The Flintstones/WWE crossover movie Stone Age Smackdown is about what you’d expect from both sides – a formulaic, extended sitcom episode with enough funny in-jokes to make it worth a viewing.

It’s also a good Exhibit A in how long animation takes versus how quickly WWE storylines change – C.M. Punk is the primary villain, and a single scene with Daniel Bryan – in which he and John Cena do a variation on the old “duck season/wabbit season” gag by yelling “Yes!” and “No!” – was pretty clearly added late in the game once it became apparent Bryan would be a top guy by the time the Blu-ray came out.

As per usual with The Flintstones, the plot involves Fred screwing up at work, stumbling onto a hare-brained scheme to make money, finding success at first but then getting greedy and forgetting what really matters. In this case, the scheme initially involves Barney’s pet kangaroo-dinosaur thing in a boxing challenge. The critter’s great at punching out people, but when “CM Punkrock” shows up and starts yelling at it first, the poor thing breaks down in tears, prompting Barney to jump off the top rope and basically invent pro-wrestling.

The audience loves it so much that Fred starts to think bigger, inspired by words of encouragement from a clam dealer named Mr. McMagma (Personally, I’d have gone with “Mr. McCavemahon”). He recruits new quarry hire John Cenastone, masked office drone Rey Mysteriopal, and…the Undertaker, who has no punny name and is just hanging out in the graveyard.

For WWE fans, care has been taken to get the references right. Cenastone’s casual wear is gold and purple, like his debut ring trunks, and there’s even an inference that he scored the quarry job thanks to preferential treatment. As with many fictionalized depictions of wrestling, the narrative hedges on the notion of kayfabe – initially a big deal is made of the fact that it’s just a show, but later the bad guys try to make it real, and of course lose.

For Flintstones fans it’s a more mixed bag. The backgrounds are nicely painted and detailed, but Barney Rubble’s voice just isn’t right – it’s nowhere near deep enough, and makes one long for Rick Moranis’ live-action impersonation. Aside from Fred and Barney, most of the other characters are back-burnered – no, they couldn’t even figure out a Bam Bam Bigelow or Bamm Bamm Gordy reference to sneak in there. (I presume Dwayne Johnson is now too expensive to cameo as “The Bedrock”).

In terms of WWE guys as voice-over actors, the highlight here is Undertaker, who scarily growls all his lines, even when they’re about banal things like ice cream melting. Second best, surprisingly, is Mark Henry, fulfilling the cartoon trope of the stupid, childlike henchman to the main villain with a sense of comic timing we rarely see from him on live TV.

Worst would be the Bellas, who literally do sound like they recorded their lines alone in a room (which they certainly did, as most voice-actors do, but the goal is to avoid being so obvious), and Rey Mysterio is pretty generic in his part. As on TV, Cena has the most generic role, but he makes the most of it, playing fairly naive and less cocky.

If you’re a fan of WWE it’s worth watching – at 80+ 52 minutes, it goes by quickly and feels like a half-hour episode of something. Extras are scant but include a short featurette of all the superstars talking about their roles. The Blu-ray comes out tomorrow, but it’s available now for digital download.

Meanwhile, back in the fake-real world, am I the only one who’s actually liking what WWE is doing now? They clearly know what the fan problems are with Roman Reigns, and are working hard to fix them. Reigns’ mic work has gotten a lot better, and if he could come up with a less-forced catchphrase than “Believe that,” I might, well, believe that. Now, if he does become champ, I want to see him lose the flak-jacket and walk down the main aisle – the crowd entrance was only fun when it was the Shield, and Seth Rollins would somersault over the barricade every time.

They’re also using John Cena correctly for the first time in ages – as an actual underdog who doesn’t get his way. The biggest problem most of us have with his character is not that he always wins, but that he always wins easily and smiles through it every time, like nobody’s remotely on his level. Rusev saying no to their match was hilarious – one spoiled child character taking the other’s toys. I hope they can continue on this note.

Also, so much for Money in the Bank being a separate show. I mean, technically it still is, but now we have a fake Money in the Bank at WrestleMania. That’s fine – MITB used to always be the highlight, and it sucked when they took it away. The only thing that will be disappointing is if this match doesn’t steal the show, given all the talent involved.

Speaking of which, can I say I LOVE having crazy R-Truth back? Because I do.

Finally, my apologies for missing this column last week (if you non-fans reading can believe it, I get more Twitter grief if I miss this column than any other). Workmen were in and out of the place fixing flood damage, and longform editorials are harder to focus on when the immediate surroundings are chaos. Now we’re stabilizing, and you can talk back about Raw below.