Where the Stone Age meets the Rock Age!
Encino Man missed the ’80s by a couple of years, but is firmly stuck in the neon clothes and “Party on!” decade.
I slept through the ’80s. Or perhaps more appropriately, I was off in my own little world doing my own little thing, and ignored the pop culture that influenced my peers. The only TV shows I can recall watching during that decade are “The A-Team” and “Knight Rider,” and with the exception of the Star Wars movies or The Karate Kid, I rarely went to the movies.
Despite the fact that Encino Man was released in 1992, I’m still going to group it with the pop culture of the ’80s, because that’s the decade it most closely resembles. To me, the Nineties didn’t become the Nineties until wooden stakes were driven through the hearts of heavy metal, neon clothing, and different-for-the-sake-of-different teen lingo.
With all of that said, I guess watching Encino Man was like a trip back to my high school years, except that it’s nothing like the experience I had. Thank God for small favors.
Here’s the plot. A caveman is caught in a freak drive-by glaciering. Several thousand years later, his frozen remains are unearthed by two California teens. The teenagers take the frozen caveman to paleontologists who study the intact, fossilized remains. Oh wait, that’s what real people would do. This is a movie. The teens leave the frozen body in their garage, where it thaws and the caveman wakes up, like a prehistoric version of Rip Van Winkle. The teens take the opportunity to refine and civilize the primitive man, and to give him the appreciation of modern education. Oh wait, I’m thinking realistically again. The teens make the caveman dress, eat, and talk like them, and basically use the hunky caveman as their ticket to the all-important world of High School Popularity.
If the plot wasn’t bad enough, Encino Man was a Pauly Shore vehicle. Apparently, he was popular with the kids who watched MTV back in those days. I can’t tolerate him at all. To paraphrase John Malkovich in Con Air, “For me, he’s somewhere between a cockroach and that white stuff that accumulates at the corners of your mouth when you’re really thirsty.” Pauly Shore is what Andy Dick would be if Andy Dick were a MTV celebrity (if you get my drift). Encino Man also stars Sean Astin and Brendan Fraser. My wife recognized Sean Astin from his role in The Goonies, but I’m only familiar with him as the guy who’s going to play Sam Gamgee in the upcoming Lord Of The Rings trilogy. The real highlight of the movie is Brendan Fraser as the titular caveman. This was one of the roles that brought him to stardom. He’s a gifted physical actor who can convey quite a bit just through his eyes or facial expressions. Unfortunately, I have a feeling that the role typecast him as the Big Dumb Guy, and will lead to more roles like George Of The Jungle or Dudley Do-Right. But then, that typecasting also led to his casting in The Mummy, which was one of my most-enjoyed movies (and discs) of 1999.
The disc is more or less exactly what you would expect from a Disney release: non-anamorphic and light on the extras. The movie is presented in 1.85:1 widescreen. The transfer is exceptionally clean. No digital artifacts were noticeable, flesh tones and the overall palette were natural, and there were minimal specks on the negative.
Audio is presented in Dolby Surround. The sound lacks the definition and clarity of a modern digital mix, but is more than adequate for this movie. Dialogue is clear and natural, and the rear channel is used frequently for music and sound effects.
“Extras” include a slight 3-minute promotional featurette, cast bios, and a full-frame presentation of the theatrical trailer.
If Encino Man had explored the fish-out-of-water possibilities rather than the clichéd high school popularity theme, it would have been a much more entertaining movie, and would have dated itself with the mores and adolescent values of its time. Take Back To The Future, for example. Granted, the fish-out-of-water element takes place out of the movie’s “present day” timeframe, but it focused on the comic possibilities of someone out of their temporal element. That’s funny; feeding microwave burritos to Piltdown Man is not.
Don’t let my distaste for Pauly Shore and the movie’s wasted comic possibilities fool you. If you (or your kids) like Encino Man and the comic stylings of Pauly, pick up the disc, dude. It looks and sounds good enough to be part of your collection, though the $29.99 price tag is a little harsh.
One other quick note. In a ‘Before They Were Stars’ moment, there’s a blink-and-you’ll-miss-her appearance by Rose McGowan, who had unforgettable roles recently in Scream and Jawbreaker.