Encino Man

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Details At A Glance

Category Comedy Theatrical Trailer(s) None
Rating pg.gif (1010 bytes) Other Trailer(s) None
Year Released 1992 Commentary Tracks None
Running Time 84:50 Minutes  Other Extras None
RSDL/Flipper No/No
Cast & Crew
Start Up Movie
Region 2,4 Director Les Mayfield
HollywoodPictures.gif (1493 bytes)
Warner Home Video
Starring Brendan Fraser
Sean Astin
Pauly Shore
Megan Ward
Mariette Hartley
Robin Tunney
Case Amaray
RRP $36.95 Music J. Peter Robinson

Pan & Scan/Full Frame None MPEG None
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.85:1 Dolby Digital 2.0 
16x9 Enhancement 16x9No.jpg (4709 bytes) Soundtrack Languages English (Dolby Digital 2.0 , 192 Kb/s)
French (Dolby Digital 2.0 , 192 Kb/s)
Italian (Dolby Digital 2.0 , 192 Kb/s)
Theatrical Aspect Ratio 1.85:1
Macrovision ? Smoking No
Subtitles French
English for the Hearing Impaired
Annoying Product Placement Yes, just a little
Action In or After Credits No

Plot Synopsis

    Having seen this film nearly a decade ago with my immediate family, I guess I could say it was a pretty impressive first glimpse of the goofy actor we know and love, one Brendan Fraser. It is definitely a credit to this man's comedic and dramatic talents that this film works as well as it does, because without him, this film would have died immediately after the jokes about acclimatizing a caveman to the modern era were finished. Essentially, this film's premise read on paper thusly: "caveman freezes during the coming of the Ice Age, lays in a glacier for thousands of years, gets thawed out in 1990, and goes to school". It looks pretty thin on paper, and it is a credit to the caveman that the laughs keep coming for as long as they do. I could not remember who directed this film, or who else starred in it except for Pauly Shore, but I can easily remember the sequence in which Stoney Brown (Pauly Shore) and Dave Morgan (Sean Astin) try to give the thawed caveman they've just found a name. Eventually, after some rather hilarious failed attempts to communicate with him, they manage to make him understand that they're calling him Link (Brendan Fraser). After a while, it becomes pretty obvious that they have no idea what to do with Link, so they eventually settle upon doing what every high school nerd who's just found an item that they believe will make them popular does. In short, they dress Link up to look like a student and take him with them to school, after dodging up the usual enrolment forms and other such technicalities. For the rest of the film, the comedy, and indeed the rest of the plot, is derived from Link's reactions to a strange new environment as well the other students' reactions to Link.

    Obviously, this film is not going to win any awards for its acting or its script, but it is certainly very funny. Brendan Fraser's performance as the caveman almost carries the entire film, and from watching him at work, it became obvious after a while that the man was destined to go places. Pauly Shore is basically playing Pauly Shore dork character number three hundred, but the fact that this is one of the earlier incarnations of that much-loved character, backed up with some solid performances from the rest of the cast, makes it tolerable. It is also interesting to see a younger Robin Tunney wander aimlessly around this film as if there is nothing between her ears, as it makes one understand why they cast her in The Craft several years later. Why cast an intelligent woman who might question the banal idiocy of your script when you can have one who's been in a film that makes your pet project look like Shakespeare by comparison?

    Obviously, if you're expecting something refreshing and intelligent, then this is not the movie for you. On the other hand, if you want something to laugh at for ninety minutes, Brendan Fraser's rendition of a caveman living in the era of convenience will provide a few good chuckles. Pauly Shore is no better and no worse than his usual self in this film, and the rest of the cast are merely props for Fraser to react to. It is certainly interesting to see how Pauly Shore has gone on to become one of the worst blights on one-joke comedy, appearing in such films as Son In Law and Jury Duty, whereas Brendan Fraser has since established himself as a serious actor in films such as The Mummy.

Transfer Quality


    The first thing you will notice when you open the packaging is a little piece of paper with the following message printed on it:

    As this note suggests, Encino Man was released under the name of California Man in Europe, and the credits on the Region 4 DVD release of this film have been altered to reflect this. Given that this film was advertised in this country under the name Encino Man, I don't think that a version of this film with the credits intact was too much to ask for under the circumstances.

    The film is presented in the original theatrical aspect ratio of 1.85:1, but it is not 16x9 Enhanced. In spite of this, the transfer is very sharp, with a lot of detail apparent in each and every frame in defiance of the limited vertical resolution. Still, it is quite a pity that this film has been limited in this manner, as a new transfer for the future shape of television would have been a nice touch, given the subject matter. The shadow detail is very good most of the time, although some of the darker portions of the transfer have a distinct lack of detail that betrays the limited budget the film was shot on. This is especially noticeable during the sequence in which our nerdy heroes visit a bar with Link, as many long-range shots show a distinct lack of detail in the actor's face under the disco-like lighting. Thankfully, no low-level noise was allowed to creep into the darker portions of the transfer.

    The colour saturation was also reflective of the budget, with the myriad of tones apparent in each scene being subdued and restrained for the most part. Pauly Shore's costumes were the exception to this rule, but they tended to be more oversaturated than anything else, but any problems with the colour balance certainly aren't the fault of the transfer.

    MPEG artefacts were not noted at any point, with the resolution of this transfer being exceptional. Film-to-video artefacts were mostly absent from the transfer, with only the occasional instance of aliasing coming from the usual culprits. Film artefacts were a mild problem during the opening credits, but settled down to a more acceptable rate when the film got underway.


    Matching the unrestored (or is that simply unenhanced?) video transfer is an audio transfer that begs for a Dolby Digital 5.1 remix, although what we have here is once again more than adequate. The transfer is presented in three languages, all of them in Dolby Digital 2.0 with surround-encoding: the original English dialogue, which happens to be the default, with dubs in French and Italian being provided for good measure. Note that the packaging erroneously refers to all of the soundtracks on this disc as being Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo - they are most definitely surround-encoded. I listened to the English dialogue without sampling either of the alternate dubs, as I have yet to hear a funny joke told in a language that I don't fully understand. The dialogue is clear and easy to understand at all times, although the ambient sounds in the background occasionally threaten to cause some difficulties. There was some distortion in the dialogue during the film's climax, when the General Nasty Bully-BoyTMmade a speech to his peers about his discovery of Link's true origins. However, this was also apparent on the VHS version of the film, and the dialogue is otherwise as clear as a bell. Audio sync was not a problem at any time, except during the band's performance in the prom scene, where it appears that the band (Infectious Grooves in this instance) played a particular song during filming, but chose another one to be placed in the soundtrack during post-production.

    Having said that much, the music in this film consists of two major sources: a score by one J. Peter Robinson, and some contemporary (for the time, anyway) numbers by various bands. The actual score music was completely unnoticeable to the extent that I didn't realize there was any until I verified this fact by checking the Internet Movie Database. The contemporary music, on the other hand, enhances the story and general mood of the film in a way that this sort of music is usually incapable of. The most notable example of contemporary music in this film is that performed by Infectious Grooves, a side project of notorious Venice Beach based vocalist Mike Muir.

    Perhaps the packaging was not quite so inaccurate after all, as the English soundtrack is, for all intents and purposes, a Stereo soundtrack with next to no surround elements to speak of. The only time I distinctly heard my surround channels doing anything was during the scenes at the bar and at the prom, where elements of the contemporary music can be heard in the surrounds. Much of this film is based on dialogue, with the jokes being carried by culture clash and social hierarchy, so the absence of surround channel usage is not a particular problem for this film. The subwoofer, on the other hand, was frequently called into action in order to support the sounds of earthquakes and the music, with various other sounds receiving a light pulse from the LFE channel for good measure. All in all, the subwoofer supported the film well without calling attention to itself, which is remarkable considering how little effort was made to make use of the surrounds.


    Get your donut holes here...


    The menu is loosely based on a publicity still for the film, and it is not 16x9 enhanced. It is worth noting that the audio track can only be changed from the menu, which is most annoying when you want to verify the surround-encoding of a soundtrack.

R4 vs R1

    The Region 4 version of this disc misses out on;     There's nothing here to get particularly excited about, although one Region 1 review states that their version of the disc is also framed at 1.66:1, which I seriously doubt to be the proper aspect ratio.


    Encino Man is a delightful way to spend eighty-five minutes, and even does the task of parking your brain in neutral for you while you're watching it. It is presented on a good, but not great, DVD.

    The video quality is very good, but would have been better still with 16x9 enhancement.

    The audio quality is unremarkable.

    I'm getting a little tired of having to report that there are no extras.

Ratings (out of 5)

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© Dean McIntosh (my bio sucks... read it anyway)
July 25, 2000.
Review Equipment
DVD Grundig GDV 100 D, using composite output; Toshiba SD-2109, using S-video output
Display Panasonic TC-29R20 (68 cm), 4:3 mode, using composite input; Samsung CS-823AMF (80 cm), 16:9 mode/4:3 mode, using composite and S-video inputs
Audio Decoder Built In (Amplifier)
Amplification Sony STR-DE835
Speakers Panasonic S-J1500D Front Speakers, Philips PH931SSS Rear Speakers, Philips FB206WC Centre Speaker, JBL Digital 10 Subwoofer