Last of the Monster Kids

Last of the Monster Kids
"LAST OF THE MONSTER KIDS" - Available Now on the Amazon Kindle Marketplace!

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

WHY DO I OWN THIS?: Encino Man (1992)

Welcome to a new feature here at Film Thoughts called “Why Do I Own This?” I’ve been collecting movies for quite some time. Over the years, my collection has grown to be rather large. When looking through all the titles I’ve acquired, occasionally I see something that truly baffles me. These are movies that are of… Questionable quality, with embarrassing reputations. They are the type of movies that I fear bring down the prestige of my entire collection. So I decided to pull these dubious titles off the shelves, give them a watch, and attempt to answer the central question: Why do I own this?

The inaugural edition of “Why Do I Own This?” is “Encino Man.” Dave is a high school student desperate to be liked. Specifically, he wants the attention of Robyn, a childhood crush that is now outside of his social strata, dating a jock named Matt. Dave’s eccentric friend Stoney certainly isn’t helping him get a date. Dave’s latest scheme to become popular has him digging a pool in his backyard. While doing so, he unearths a caveman frozen inside a block of ice. Soon, the Cro-Magnon man thaws out. A man out of time, the caveman is frightened and confused by the world he awakens into. Seeing an oppretunity, the teens train the caveman, who they name Link, to be the coolest new kid in school.

“Encino Man” has an incredibly dumb premise. It’s basically “Iceman” re-imagined as a doppy teen comedy. The film is obviously pitched at the twelve-to-fourteen crowd, as there’s none of the raunchy content you usually see in teen comedies. Sex is never truly referenced, romance being a more vague concept. Even when you have a character played by Pauly Shore named Stoney, no pot is smoked on-screen. (Though I suspect some was smoked in the writers’ room.) Instead, “Encino Man” is an obvious fish-out-of-water comedy that alternates between incredibly silly and incredibly stupid. The incredibly silly moments are the defrosted caveman fighting a mailman with a shovel, leaping down some high school steps, and impressing girls with his cave painting skills. Just a few of the incredibly stupid moments are the Encino Man failing his driver’s test, getting in a conga line at a club, dancing at prom, or performing kung-fu. The jokes in “Encino Man” are on such a broad level, the movie’s target audience must have been either children or incredibly non-discerning teens.

If “Encino Man” has any value at all, it’s as a time capsule of 1992. Yes, this movie stars Pauly Shore, a performers whose popular reign was incredibly short-lived. Shore is playing a variation on his trademark character, the Weasel. Yes, he says “bud-DEY” a lot. He rides a scooter, tells lame jokes, and teaches the Encino Man to love junk food. Aside from Shore’s presence – which is really the most obvious indicator that this was made in the early nineties – other factors root “Encino Man” in 1992. Everyone wears neon pastels. There’s a lot of torn denim, trench coats, teased hair, and white hip-hop kids. One sequence involves break-dancing. Another involves hair metal. The politics are obviously from a less enlightened time. The caveman goes up to some high school girls, grabs their hair, and puts his face next to their faces. This makes him popular and well-liked with the ladies. An extended stop in a club features some less-than-sensitive Mexican characters. Dave is openly, freely bullied by the jock. If you want to get an idea of what pop culture was like during my early childhood, give this one a spin.

As incredibly dumb as “Encino Man” is, I can’t exactly hate it. The movie is far too inoffensive to be truly bad. Tone down the jokes just a notch and you’ve basically got a Disney Channel Original. A thawed-out caveman becomes a cool party dude is about as hacky a premise as you can imagine. I’m not proud to admit that the some parts even made me laugh a little. “Encino Man’s” lasting contribution to pop culture is an internet GIF. Yes, that scene is funny. Brandon Fraiser, whose appeal has always been his wide-eyed goofiness, is well used. Honestly, a mostly physical but utterly light-weight role like this may be ideal for the actor. Dave’s parents utter disbelief but complete acceptance of the cave man is mildly amusing. I groaned a lot but the only time I hated “Encino Man” is when it reaches for totally unearned drama. Like when Dave and Stoney’s friendship comes to blow or Fraiser realizes he’s a man out of time. That stuff was truly embarrassing.

Why Do I Own This?: I used to have a VHS copy of this flick that I would occasionally watch with my older sister. Yes, she was a Pauly Shore fan. When I was mass upgrading my VHS collection to DVD, “Encino Man” somehow wound up on the “upgrade” pile. Why is probably out of a misguided nostalgia for a really dumb movie I watched a few times as a kid. I can’t defend my ownership of this, other then to say “Encino Man” is less awful then it is just silly. It’s also harmless, forgettable, disposable, and stars Pauly Shore. Which is still pretty bad, I guess. [5/10]

1 comment:

Joel Schlosberg said...

That poster has the same exact font as that other inexplicable-in-retrospect relic of the '90s: Absolut Vodka ads!