Rating: 2.5 out of 5
Length: 88 minutes
Release Date: May 22, 1992
Directed by: Les Mayfield
Overview – Encino Man
Dave (Sean Astin) is a down-on-his-luck teenager who longs to be one of the cool kids at school, even if he won’t admit it out loud. His best friend Stoney (Pauly Shore) is a likeable outcast who loves Dave despite his mostly dour attitude. He likes him so much that he is even willing to help him dig a huge hole in his backyard that Dave hopes will one day become a swimming pool. While digging, the two friends come upon a huge block of ice with what appears to be a man (Brendan Fraser) trapped inside of it, which is the start of the movie-length romp that is “Encino Man.”
The man trapped inside turns out to be a prehistoric caveman who can’t communicate with Dave and Stoney. They decide to call him Link, as in the missing link, because it’s funny and he can’t really protest anyway. Link is a buff guy who is fairly attractive after he takes a shower and cleans up a bit. The boys feed him and try to teach him basic things like table manners to no avail. They then come up with the genius plan to pass him off as a high-school student so that they don’t have to leave him in the house unsupervised while they go to school.
Link becomes an instant hit in high school, attracting the attention of Robyn (Megan Ward) and Ella (Robin Tunney), two of the hottest girls at school, who won’t give Dave and Stoney the time of day. Link seems happy with all the attention, but his smiles and showing off for the ladies hide the sadness he feels, since he misses his old life.
His sorrow at not being among his own people make Dave and Stoney rethink their strategy with him, and they realize that they have grown to love the grunting beast. As they try to figure out how to cheer Link up and help him assimilate into life in the modern age, school bully Matt (Michael DeLuise) uncovers evidence of Link’s prehistoric origins that could bring all the fun to a screeching halt.
Some celebrities become overnight sensations by striking at just the right time. Pauly Shore is one of those people. The comedian and former MTV video jockey burst onto the scene with his comedy act in the late 1980s, but “Encino Man” introduced him to a whole new audience of people who don’t generally watch MTV or go to stand-up comedy shows.
His weasley alter-ego proved to be quite popular, allowing him to make several more movies that served as vehicles for his unique persona. This film was his first starring role; his handful of movie appearances up to that point had been in bit roles. He took the opportunity to have a headlining role and ran with it, carving out a career in comedy films.
Fraser was a relative unknown at the time, but he pretty much steals the show, and he barely has to say a word to do it. In his opening scenes, he mostly mugs for the camera, because Link can’t speak English or any other language. The mugging is spot-on and showcases the actor’s knack for comic timing. He is especially hilarious when grunting or trying to imitate Shore’s trademark speech patterns, which are commonly known as dudespeak.
Though Astin and Shore do a good job of being funny, Fraser does most of the comedic heavy lifting in “Encino Man.” It turned him into a budding movie star, launching his career so that he could go on to take much bigger parts in films such as “George of the Jungle,” “Gods and Monsters,” and “The Mummy.”
Director Les Mayfield was mostly a documentary filmmaker before “Encino Man,” working on behind-the-scenes specials and short films. “Encino Man” marked his feature-length debut, and it was a real doozy. The film was a sleeper hit, grossing over $40 million at the box office back when that was a huge sum, especially for a low-budget film. Not only did Shore and especially Fraser become breakout stars as a result of “Encino Man,” Mayfield also made a career out of the film. He would go on to direct films such as “Flubber” and “Blue Streak,” but “Encino Man” arguably remains his funniest film to date.
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