Retro Review: Caveman
We’ve survived the last Ice Age, and Spring has returned! As we exit our smoke filled caves, we’re reminded of all of the wonders the great outdoors have to offer us…and rightly decide to turn promptly back around and watch a movie instead. Well fire up some brontosaurus ribs and prepare to go Paleo the right way, by celebrating a whole month of prehistoric films featuring our distant forebears. Our first caveman offering is the aptly titled Caveman, which showed audiences that submarine dwelling musician Ringo Starr was also a finely trained comedian.
Atouk (Starr) and Lar (Dennis Quaid) are two lovable losers who just can’t hack it as cavemen. Lar is constantly accident prone, and Atouk has the hots for Lana, the girlfriend of the strongest (and meanest) member of the tribe, Tonda. A misadventure while gathering food to woo Lana leaves Lar lamed and lands Atouk in deep trouble, leading to both of them being banished.
Atouk wanders the wilderness, slowly gathering a band of several misfits he finds along the way. While being nearly murdered by giant bugs, carnivorous plants, and comically stupid dinosaurs, Atouk manages to make pretty much every major discovery of prehistory: fire, music, the wheel, medicinal marijuana, and more. He also discovers chiropracy, freeing ancient man from the drudgery of stooping everywhere they went! Armed with his many advances and the affection of Tala (Shelley Long) he returns home to challenge Tonda for the leadership of the tribe.
Men of Few Words
Director Carl Gottlieb takes a page out of The Beatles’ play book, and doesn’t allow Ringo to do vocals. The movie is mostly pantomimed, with only a handful of “caveman” vocab words allowed. The only person who gets to speak English is a caveman from Asia, and everyone just assumes he’s speaking gibberish. The comedy doesn’t suffer from the restriction, as Caveman relies heavily on physical humor and pratfalls. Having a vocabulary of just “fire”, “sex”, “monster” and “shit” mean most of the one liners end up being one worders instead. It ends up growing on you.
Land of the Lost
In addition to physical humor and poop jokes, Caveman also makes much use of the local talent, namely Dinosaurs and other prehistoric creatures. Besides Richard Moll dressed up as the Abominable Snowman, most of the creature feature aspect is old school stop-motion animation. Think Clash of the Titans but with a T Rex stoned off his ass on pot. The monsters are dopier than the people, with a loony vibe reminiscent of Pee Wee’s Playhouse.
Caveman Nya Pooka!
Though only a modest success at the Box Office, Caveman has made a name for itself as a cult classic. Director Carl Gottlieb knows his comedy, as he wrote for many comedy shows of the day and even co-wrote the comedy classic The Jerk, starring Steve Martin. The film has several laugh out loud moments, and creates a distinctive vibe with it’s stop motion visuals. The wink-and-nod revisionist history feels similar to Mel Brooks’ History of the World, which also released that year (and also contained some notable caveman humor.) It’s a goofy screwball comedy with a happy ending, as Ringo manages to finally get the girl: a year after the movie premiered, Starr married co-star Barbara Bach, who played the unobtainable Lana. Take that, Tonda!