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Encino Man

Rated PG, 88 min. Directed by Les Mayfield. Starring Pauly Shore, Sean Astin, Brendan Fraser, Megan Ward, Mariette Hartley, Richard Masur.

REVIEWED By Marc Savlov, Fri., May 22, 1992

Like some sort of evil Hollywood hybrid, Encino Man begs, borrows and steals the worst bits from both Iceman and Fast Times at Ridgemont High and ends up being just as vacuous as you think it is. Set in the Encino Valley, pop culture capital of California, this is actually little more than a feature-length vehicle for stand-up comedian/MTV host/bastion of mangled surfer syntax, Pauly Shore. His incessant riffing can be fairly witty at times, but 90+ minutes of this 30-year-old playing a high school senior is painful at best. Being a vehicle for a single performer, Encino Man is understandably lacking in the finer virtues of the cinematic art form, like, say, a plot, but the teenage audience I saw this with didn't particularly seem to mind too much, dude. Shore's character Stoney and his misfit buddy unearth a caveman in their backyard, frozen popsicle-style during a Stone Age mishap some time ago. Having never apparently seen Howard Hawks' The Thing, they prop the block of ice atop a couple of sawhorses, surround it with space heaters, and go off to school. Ice melts, iceguy wakes up, runs amok, gets a spiffy 'do and some killer threads, and becomes prom king in just under 94 minutes. That's it. There are a few attempts at morality here (little life lessons like “don't exploit your prehistoric friends just to improve your social standing” keep cropping up) but they're so in-your-face that they end up being more insulting than anything else. Again, the high school-age audience I saw this with seemed to think the whole thing was an obvious shoo-in for the Oscars, so clearly quite a few people are into this sort of pre-fabricated, cookie-cutter pop culture. Maybe I'm a throwback, but watching Pauly Shore in Encino Man, I found myself missing Jeff Spicoli.
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