Encino Man

Encino Man (known as California Man in Europe and New Zealand)[5] is a 1992 American comedy film directed by Les Mayfield and starring Brendan Fraser, Sean Astin and Pauly Shore.[2] The plot revolves around two geeky teenagers from Encino, Los Angeles, California, played by Astin and Shore, who discover a caveman in Morgan's backyard frozen in a block of ice.

Encino Man
Theatrical release poster
Directed byLes Mayfield
Produced by
  • George Zaloom
  • Hilton A. Green
  • Michael Rotenberg
Written by
  • George Zaloom
  • Shawn Schepps
Music byJ. Peter Robinson
CinematographyRobert Brinkmann
Edited by
  • Michael Kelly
  • Eric A. Sears
Distributed byBuena Vista Pictures
Release date
  • May 22, 1992 (1992-05-22)
Running time
88 minutes[1]
CountryUnited States
Budget$7 million[2][3]
Box office$40.7 million[4]

The caveman, played by Fraser, has to learn to live in the 20th century. Along the way, he teaches them about life.


During the first ice age, a caveman attempts to make fire with his girlfriend. An earthquake causes a cave-in that buries the two of them.

This segues into a present day Los Angeles earthquake that awakens average teenager Dave Morgan. He, along with his best friend Stoney, strives to attain popularity in high school but comes off more like a reject and an outcast. Dave is in love with Robyn Sweeney, a sweet and attractive girl who has been his best friend since grade school, and until she reached adolescence, had been rejected by Dave on several occasions.

Her boyfriend, Matt Wilson, is a stereotypical jock and school bully, who is constantly responsible for making both Dave and Stoney the objects of ridicule by humiliating them in various ways, usually directly due to Dave's growing affections toward Robyn.

One day, as Dave is digging a pool in his backyard, he comes across a chunk of ice that has the body of a man in it following an earthquake. They leave the ice block unattended in the garage and space heaters left on cause the ice to melt, releasing the caveman from the opening of the film. The caveman then encounters a garbage truck, which he misinterprets as a mammoth from his time and television which he discovers upon entering Dave's house.

When the boys return home, they find hand paint covering the walls and the house in disarray. Investigating a beeping smoke alarm, they discover the caveman in Dave's bedroom, attempting to start a fire "Indian-style" by rotating a stick in the center of a pile of kindling. At first, the caveman panics at the sight of them but Stoney quickly calms him by using the flame of a lighter to mesmerize him. After bathing him and trimming him to look like an average teenager, Dave names him "Link" as in the missing link.

They manage to fool Dave's family into thinking he is actually an Estonian exchange student sent to live with them, and enroll him in school where Link's bizarre behavior and supreme athletic skills shoot Dave and Stoney to popularity by association, allowing Dave to get closer to Robyn to Matt's chagrin.

It soon becomes apparent that Stoney's bizarre attitude is having an effect on Link's actions and speech, which causes a rift between Dave and Stoney and after a fight with Matt at a skating rink, as well as an attraction developing between Robyn and Link. During a school field trip to a natural history museum, Link gets upset realizing that the cavepeople he knew are all dead. Stoney and Dave console Link that he is not without friends in this time, causing the trio to make a pact. Dave tries to send Link away, but a fight between him and Stoney cause Link to come running back and separated. Stoney and Dave then make up.

On prom night, Link is a hit at the party with Robyn as his date, while Dave stays in for the evening. Matt breaks into Dave's bedroom and steals photographic evidence that Link is a caveman. As Dave and Stoney go after Matt and his friends, another earthquake happens. At the prom, Matt's plan to uncover the "freak" backfires as the information instead makes Link even more popular. Dave and Robyn make up, and the three boys lead the entire prom in an impromptu caveman-like dance.

After the prom, the students attend Dave's house for a pool party where Dave and Robyn kiss. Meanwhile, Stoney and Link follow clues similar to when they found him ranging from breast prints on the slider and paint covering the walls. They follow the muddy footprints to the bathroom and discover a beautiful cavewoman in the bathtub who turns out to be Link's girlfriend from the beginning of the film. He joins her in the bathtub as Stoney cheers them on and embraces her happily as she is also made to look like a modern human.



Encino Man is directed by Les Mayfield, a veteran of behind the scenes promotional documentaries, making his feature film debut. The film was shot from December 1991 to February 1992.[6]

Pauly Shore was known for his show Totally Pauly on MTV and Disney expected this would bring an existing audience to the film. The film tested well with teen audiences, and Mayfield thanked Wayne's World which came out a while before Encino Man for showing a comedy aimed at this demographic could do well.[2]

Costume designer Marie France decided not to buy clothes; she instead custom made the wardrobe for Stoney's and Link's characters. For Shore, she took his own unusual style and gave it a younger look. For Fraser, who stands at a height of 6' 3", it was a matter of practicality, easier than trying to find the sizes needed, and she dressed him in baggy knee length shorts and oversized T shirts.[7]


The film received mostly negative reviews from critics.[8][9] It holds a score of 15% on film review aggregation website Rotten Tomatoes based on reviews from 34 critics, with an average rating of 3.1/10. The website's critical consensus reads, "Encino Man isn't the first unabashedly silly comedy to embrace its stupidity and amass a cult following, but whether or not it works for you will largely be determined by your tolerance for Pauly Shore."[10]

Despite the negative critical response, the film was a box office success.[3] The film took in $9,866,120 in its opening weekend coming 4th at the box office. The film went on to earn a total of $40,693,477 at the North American box office.[4] The film was released in the United Kingdom on September 25, 1992, titled California Man, and opened on #5.[11]

Pauly Shore's performance in Encino Man won him the Razzie Award for Worst New Star.[12]

Link, again played by Fraser, makes a cameo appearance in the film Son-in-Law (1993), which also stars Pauly Shore. Fraser also briefly appears as a soldier with the name "Link" on his fatigues in In the Army Now starring Shore.

In Evan Wright's book about the 2003 invasion of Iraq, Generation Kill, the US Marine company commander is nicknamed Encino Man, supposedly for his incompetence.[13] In the 2008 HBO miniseries of adaptation of the book the officer is played by Brian Patrick Wade.[14] The South Park episode, "Prehistoric Ice Man" (1999), was a parody of the film, wherein the boys find a man who has been frozen in ice since 1996.


  1. "CALIFORNIA MAN (PG)". British Board of Film Classification. 1992-06-22. Retrieved 2012-12-08.
  2. Andy Marx (1992-05-17). "A look inside Hollywood and the movies : SUMMERTIME BRUISE : Who Dares Intrude During the Season of the Giants? Several Rock-Slinging Davids". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2012-11-18.
  3. Fox, David J. (May 26, 1993). "'Lethal' Leads a Record Holiday : Top 10 Films Gross $85 Million". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved June 9, 2012.
  4. "Encino Man (1992)". Box Office Mojo. IMDb. Retrieved April 10, 2018.
  5. "Donald Clarke, Irish Times film critic, asks "Are Americans stupider than Europeans"". 2010-04-15.
  6. "Encino Man (1992)". IMDb. Retrieved 1 March 2019.
  7. Robert Burns (June 5, 1992). "Clothes Make the Caveman". Los Angeles Times.
  8. Rainer, Peter (May 22, 1992). "MOVIE REVIEW 'Encino Man': Two Dudes Unearth a Missing Link". The Los Angeles Times. Retrieved October 26, 2010.
  9. Maslin, Janet (August 12, 1994). "FILM REVIEW; At Long Last Smarter". The New York Times. Retrieved October 10, 2016.
  10. "Encino Man (1992)". Rotten Tomatoes. Flixster. Retrieved April 10, 2018.
  11. "UK Weekend Box Office 25th September 1992 - 27th September 1992". www.25thframe.co.uk. Retrieved 18 June 2018.
  12. "1992 Archive". Golden Raspberry Awards. Golden Raspberry Award Foundation. Archived from the original on April 18, 2001. Retrieved April 10, 2018.
  13. Evan Wright. "Chapter 5". Generation Kill. The commander [...] is a man they call "Encino Man", after the movie of the same title
  14. Alessandra Stanley (July 11, 2008). "Comrades in Chaos, Invading Iraq". New York Times.
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