Encino Man (known as California Man in France, Great Britain, Asia and New Zealand)[5] is a 1992 American comedy film directed by Les Mayfield in his directorial debut, and starring Sean Astin, Brendan Fraser, Mariette Hartley, Richard Masur, and Pauly Shore.[2] The plot revolves around two geeky teenagers from Encino, Los Angeles, California, who discover a caveman in Morgan's backyard, frozen in a block of ice where he has to learn to live in the 20th century while teaching the teenagers about life.

Encino Man
Theatrical release poster
Directed byLes Mayfield
Written by
  • George Zaloom
  • Shawn Schepps
Produced by
CinematographyRobert Brinkmann
Edited by
  • Michael Kelly
  • Eric A. Sears
Music byJ. Peter Robinson
Distributed byBuena Vista Pictures Distribution
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 film was released on May 22, 1992 by Buena Vista Pictures Distribution (under its Hollywood Pictures label). Despite negative reviews, Encino Man was a box-office success, grossing $40.7 million worldwide on a $7 million budget.[4] It was followed by a made-for-television spin-off, Encino Woman, in 1996.


During the first ice age, a caveman (Brendan Fraser) attempts to make fire with his cavewoman partner (Sandra Hess). 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 (Sean Astin). He, along with his best friend Stoney (Pauly Shore), strives to attain popularity in high school, but comes off more like a reject or an outcast. Dave is in love with Robyn Sweeney (Megan Ward), a sweet and attractive girl who had been his best friend during grade school, and until she reached adolescence, had been rejected by Dave on several occasions.

Her boyfriend, Matt Wilson (Michael DeLuise), 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 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. The caveman then encounters a garbage truck, which he misinterprets as a mammoth from his time, and a television, which he discovers upon entering the living room.

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 by rotating a stick in the center of a pile of kindling. At first, the caveman panics at the sight of them and the sound of a telephone, 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 while getting him some new clothes, Dave names him "Link" as in the missing link.

They manage to fool Dave's parents (Mariette Hartley and Richard Masur) and sister (Ellen Blain) 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, causing Matt's anger and frustration.

Soon, Stoney's bizarre attitude apparently is having an effect on Link's actions and speech, which causes a rift between Dave and Stoney. Matt's anger and frustration leads to a fight with Link at a skating rink and increases due to Robyn's growing attraction towards 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. During Driver's ed, Link drives away in a car with Dave, Stoney, and Robyn in it, they stop at a dance club and Dave and Link are arrested. Dave, who has had enough of Link's shenanigans and upset that Robyn chooses to go to the prom with Link, tries to abandon him, and a fight between Dave and Stoney causes Link to come running back and separate the friends. Stoney and Dave reconcile.

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, some of 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 partner from the beginning of the film. He joins her in the bathtub as Stoney cheers them on and embraces her happily. She is also made to look like a modern human.



Encino Man was 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 was released three months before Encino Man, for showing a comedy aimed at this demographic could do well.[2]

Costume designer Marie France decided not to buy clothes; instead she custom-made the wardrobe for the characters of Stoney and Link. For Shore, she took his own unusual style and gave it a younger look. For Fraser, who stands at 6 feet 3 inches (190 cm), 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]


Box officeEdit

The film was a box-office success.[3] The film took in $9,866,120 in its opening weekend, coming in fourth at the box office. The film went on to earn a total of $40,693,477 at the North American box office on a budget of about $7,500,000.[4] The film was released in the United Kingdom on September 25, 1992, titled California Man, and opened at number five.[8]

Critical responseEdit

On Rotten Tomatoes, the film has an approval rating of 17% based on reviews from 35 critics, with an average rating of 3.5/10. 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."[9] On Metacritic, the film has a score of 25% based on reviews from 20 critics, indicating "generally unfavorable reviews".[10] Audiences surveyed by CinemaScore gave the film a grade A on scale of A to F.[11]

Variety panned the film, saying "Encino Man is a mindless would-be comedy aimed at the younger set. Low-budget quickie is insulting even within its own no-effort parameters."[12] Peter Rainer of the Los Angeles Times wrote: "There are a lot of funny ideas in Encino Man that don't come off because the director, Les Mayfield, and his screenwriter, Shawn Schepps, don't seem to have made up their minds how smart they want to be. A scene like Link freaking out during a visit to the La Brea tar pits museum should count for a lot more than it does here."[13]

Pauly Shore's performance in Encino Man won him the Razzie Award for Worst New Star.[14]

Derivative worksEdit

The film was the basis for a book titled Stoney's Encino High Notebook.

A made for television sequel, titled Encino Woman aired on April 20, 1996 on ABC.[15]

According to Shore, Disney+ are discussing on a sequel with the possibility of him, Astin and Fraser back as their charcters.[16]

In popular cultureEdit

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.[17] In the 2008 HBO miniseries of adaptation of the book, the officer is played by Brian Patrick Wade.[18] 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.

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ "CALIFORNIA MAN (PG)". British Board of Film Classification. 1992-06-22. Retrieved 2012-12-08.
  2. ^ a b c Marx, Andy (May 17, 1992). "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 November 18, 2012.
  3. ^ a b 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. ^ a b c "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 March 1, 2019.
  7. ^ Burns, Robert (June 5, 1992). "Clothes Make the Caveman". Los Angeles Times.
  8. ^ "UK Weekend Box Office 25th September 1992 - 27th September 1992". www.25thframe.co.uk. Retrieved 18 June 2018.
  9. ^ "Encino Man (1992)". Rotten Tomatoes. Fandango Media. Retrieved May 9, 2021.
  10. ^ "Encino Man". Metacritic. Retrieved March 22, 2020.
  11. ^ "Encino Man (1992) A". CinemaScore. Archived from the original on 2018-12-20.
  12. ^ "Encino Man". Variety. 1 January 1992.
  13. ^ Rainer, Peter (May 22, 1992). "MOVIE REVIEW 'Encino Man': Two Dudes Unearth a Missing Link". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved October 26, 2010.
  14. ^ "1992 Archive". Golden Raspberry Awards. Golden Raspberry Award Foundation. Archived from the original on April 18, 2001. Retrieved April 10, 2018.
  15. ^ Sue Cummings (April 17, 1996). "Encino Woman". Variety.
  16. ^ Zach Schonfeld (May 25, 2022). "The Oral Hisory of Encino Man, Brendan Fraser's Caveman Cult Classic". Inverse.
  17. ^ Evan Wright. "Chapter 5". Generation Kill. The commander [...] is a man they call "Encino Man", after the movie of the same title
  18. ^ Alessandra Stanley (July 11, 2008). "Comrades in Chaos, Invading Iraq". New York Times.

External linksEdit