Encino Man [1992]

Brendan Fraser made his film debut in this 1992 comedy that never quite discovers its audience constituency. On the one hand, it features Pauly Shore, which would seem to define the picture's tone and identity accordingly. On the other hand, the film's other leading man is Sean Astin, the earnest star of Rudy, suggesting that Encino Man will have a lot of heart despite its silly premise. But none of that turns out to be true. Fraser plays an unfrozen caveman discovered by a pair of California high school outcasts (Shore and Astin). As the grunting newcomer becomes popular with the other kids, Shore and Astin try to bask in his reflected glow. Fraser, beginning a long movie career playing cartoonish goofballs, works entirely on instinct and earns his laughs. Shore, however, relies on his familiar verbal shtick, and Astin makes a great overgrown puppy pining after a lost girlfriend. Directed by Les Mayfield, who came to this project from his acclaimed documentary, Hearts of Darkness: A Filmmaker's Apocalypse. --Tom Keogh

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