Touchstone and Beyond: A History of Disney’s “Encino Man”

Touchstone and Beyond: A History of Disney’s “Encino Man”

Back to school continues with our look at 1992’s caveman comedy Encino Man. Brendan Fraser will melt your heart as the recently thawed neanderthal turned high school senior.

The Plot

Dave is a high school senior who desperately wants to be popular. His best friend Stoney thinks he craves popularity too much and should relax. While digging out his backyard for a pool, Dave finds a frozen caveman. They thaw and name him Link. At school, Dave and Stoney try to survive the wild and outrageous antics of the fish out of water Link.

Dave’s longing for the most beautiful girl in the school, Robyn, attracts the attention of her jock boyfriend Matt. After a confrontation at prom where Matt tries to out Link’s caveman past, a fight ensues, and Robyn sees the light and leaves Matt for Dave.

Now truly popular, the prom returns to Dave’s house for a pool party. While the party winds up. Stoney and Link discover another caveman has thawed. To Link’s delight, it’s his girlfriend from his cro magnon days.

Cinematic Compliments

Brendan Fraser is a true delight in this film. Hilarious and sweet, Fraser spends his time on screen alternating between grunts and facial expressions. Fraser proves how talented of an actor he is without needing dialogue. Fraser is given a very serious arc when the class visits the museum. The power of seeing his whole life on display hits Link emotionally. Fraser has no dialogue to express his loss, instead he relies on action and emotion through his facial expressions to show how upset Link is.

The school where Encino Man takes place looks like and acts like a normal school. The students seem normal, and the teachers weren’t caricatures. Sure, fashion choices were questionable, and the plot line of thawing a cave man and enrolling him in school is bizarre, but the school as a backdrop looked normal.

I never thought that I would admit this, but I rather enjoyed Pauly Shore in this film.

Cinematic Complaints

Dave, the main character in the film, is hard to like. His quest to be popular is universal for everyone in high school. However, Dave does nothing to earn the respect he craves. In fact, when presented with opportunities to show he is appealing to Robyn, Dave shuns those moments until the last minute when he dances at the prom.

Some terms and language are out of date that would certainly be rewritten for today’s standards.

If you really dislike Pauly Shore movies, then you may struggle to get through Encino Man.

Fun Film Facts

  • The film was only nominated for one noteworthy award, a Razzie for Pauly Shore as Worst New Star. Unfortunately for Shore, he won.
  • Rose McGowan has a blink and you miss it film debut as a high school student.
  • Robin Tunney, who co-starred on The Mentalist, plays Ella in the film.
  • Pauly Shore was originally considered for the role of Link, but producers liked him so much that they created the role of Stoney just for him. Apparently, much of the dialogue for the film is ad libbed by Shore.
  • Jim Carrey and Nicolas Cage were originally considered for the role of Link.
  • The museum scene was filmed at the La Brea Tar Pits.
  • Stoney’s real name is mentioned by Dave’s dad at the dinner table. Stoney is Stanley.
  • This was director Les Mayfield’s feature film debut.
  • Pauly Shore was very popular on MTV’s show Totally Pauly. Disney executives believed that his appeal would help boost the box office of the film.
  • Costume Designer Marie France costume made all the wardrobe for Fraser and Shore.
  • In Pauly Shore’s 1993 film Son-in-Law, Fraser reprises his role of Link for a cameo scene.
  • Critics were less than enthused with Encino Man.

The Golden Popcorn Bucket Award

Encino Man was never destined to win any awards, but it is a funny film that will surely make you laugh. For being a school centered film, the most outlandish part of the story is not the school or the students that attend it, but rather the plot device of finding a frozen caveman and then thawing him out.

I laughed a lot and enjoyed this film. Sometimes a movie just needs to entertain, no matter how ridiculous the concept is.

Encino Man gets 3 Golden Popcorn Buckets.

Coming Attractions

Continuing our ‘Back to School’ retrospective we check out Grosse Point Blank and experience the thrill of attending your high school reunion with John Cusack.

Production Credits

Directed by Les Mayfield

Produced by Hollywood Pictures / Touchwood Pacific Partners I

Starring:

  • Sean Astin as Dave
  • Pauly Shore as Stoney
  • Brendan Fraser as Link
  • Megan Ward as Robyn
  • Michael DeLuise as Matt

Release Date: May 22, 1992

Budget: $7 million

Box Office Gross

Domestic: $40,693,477

Bill Gowsell has loved all things Disney since his first family trip to Walt Disney World in 1984. Since he began writing for Laughing Place in 2014, Bill has specialized in covering the Rick Riordan literary universe, a retrospective of the Touchstone Pictures movie library, and a variety of other Disney related topics. When he is not spending time with his family, Bill can be found at the bottom of a lake . . . scuba diving

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Touchstone and Beyond: A History of Disney’s “Encino Man”