California Man (1992)
Missing more than a Link
I'm not a geek, I'm a unique weasel - Stoney
In 1992 there was "Forever Young" a movie which saw Mel Gibson star as Capt. Daniel McCormick who having been cryogenically frozen for several decades is accidentally unfrozen and finds himself confused by the changing world before him. In the same year we also had "California Man" which saw Brendan Fraser playing a caveman who having been frozen in the ice age is discovered, unfrozen and finds himself confused by the changing world before him. Whilst "California Man" or "Encino Man" as it is also known came first it most definitely wasn't the better movie in fact it was and still is a very average movie which uses a frozen caveman in a story which seems to mix "Weird Science" with "Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure". As such we have the storyline of two high school losers becoming popular because of their new caveman friend and then you have the comedy of caveman friend running riot in the modern world, none of which ends up that amusing. Maybe fans of Pauly Shore will find it amusing as he plays one of the main characters, maybe fans of Brendan Fraser will also enjoy it but if you're not a fan of those 2 or Sean Astin then "California Man" is just another dumb, average teen comedy.
Whilst digging a pool in his back garden Dave (Sean Astin - Memphis Belle) and his mate Stoney (Pauly Shore) come across a prehistoric bowl and when there is a minor earth tremor they find a caveman frozen in a block of ice. Realising that this may be the chance for them to make a name for themselves and no longer be high school losers, thaw him out and give him the name Link (Brendan Fraser - Journey to the Center of the Earth). Despite being millions of years old Link soon starts to adapt to the 20th century with a little teaching from Stoney, but when the girls start to take an interest in him it causes problems especially when Dave's secret love Robyn (Megan Ward) likes him more that Dave.
The words subtle certainly seems to be missing when it comes to "California Man" with everything being seriously set up and sign posted. From Dave and Stoney just happening to be studying the ice age at school through to the visit to a caveman exhibition there is nothing which isn't signposted in this movie. Even the whole discovery of Link buried in an ice block in Dave's back garden is signposted by the fact you can guess that an earthquake is going to reveal him. Maybe I am being harsh because "California Man" is simply a comedy, it doesn't try to be anymore but the fact that everything is so obvious is annoying.
Because everything is so obvious you know how "California Man" is going to pan out with half the movie being about Link adapting to teenage life in the 20th century and the other half being about Dave winning the girl he secretly loves and beating her bullying boyfriend. Both sides of this have been done before and it almost feels like earlier teen movies such as "Weird Science" have been trawled for ideas to create a storyline. It's unimaginative and whilst you do smile at Link learning to talk and getting a make over so he doesn't look like a caveman it doesn't really make you laugh. It is again all very obvious and unimaginative with the only surprise actually coming right at the end of the movie.
And sadly it's just as hard to enthuse about the performances either because they are as dumb as the actual comedy and story. Pauly Shore is someone I have never really got and so watching him play the laid back Stoney just didn't float my boat, it all seems so forced, a very manufactured dude who talks the talk but fails to be any different to any other laid back teen dudes who filled movies during the 80s and early 90s. Brendan Fraser is just as uninspiring as he basically has to go through the movie acting dumb as Link, struggling to adapt to modern living whilst still doing the occasional caveman stuff. And then there is poor Sean Astin who is the straight guy in this, the cliche character who has the secret love and who gets bullied. Maybe if the characters such as Dave and Stoney weren't such cliches it may have been more interesting but sadly it feels uninspired.
What this all boils down to is that "California Man" ends up a very ordinary and unimaginative teen comedy which might have come at the start of the 90s feels more 80s in style. It maybe fun for those who like Pauly Shore and Brendan Fraser but for those who don't it is just another teen comedy which uses a caveman for some fish out of water style antics whilst also bringing in a cliche romantic storyline with a couple of losers.
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