One zillion years ago, meekly caveman Atouk (Ringo Starr, A Hard Day’s Night) is constantly humiliated by his tribe’s leader, the mighty Tonda (John Matuszak, The Goonies). To make matters worse, Atouk is secretly in love with Tonda’s mate, the dishy but manipulative Lana (Barbara Bach, The Spy Who Loved Me).
Reaction & Thoughts:
Mel Brooks-esque spoof of prehistoric movies lacks the rapid-fire gags of movies like Airplane (1980) and Brooks’s own zany satires Blazing Saddles (1974) and History of the World Part I (1981), but the film’s charmingly silly humor is, at least for me, hard to resist. Caveman is an hour and a half of unpretentious and total mindless fun!
Caveman has an episodic but simple storyline. It plays like an old silent movie with music and sound effects. The limited dialogue consists of mostly untranslated “Stone Age” language. There is a running gag about an Asian caveman who speaks perfect English (a non-PC joke about Asians being smarter than everyone else).
Some of the best jokes revolve around humankind’s most important milestones: The discovery of the upright position, the invention of fire, the developing of weapons, etc. My favorite one was the creation of music. It’s a wonderfully clever sequence with original music by Lalo Schifrin (Cool Hand Luke and The Amityville Horror).
Caveman features fantastic stop-motion sequences by David Allen (Q – The Winged Serpent and Puppet Master), who was every bit as talented as master of stop-motion animation Ray Harryhausen (20 Million Miles to Earth and The 7th Voyage Of Sinbad). Allen’s inventive effects made me nostalgic for the pre-CGI days — there is something really cool about seeing tiny clay figurines come to life.
It’s also worth mentioning that this is where a Beatles (Ringo Starr) and a Bond Girl (Barbara Bach) met and fell in love. Despite being top-billed, they don’t play a couple in the movie. The legendary drummer plays the title character, while gorgeous Bach has a smaller role as a prehistoric femme fatale. Starr is surprisingly adept at slapstick comedy. Bach doesn’t work for laughs — she is funny because she plays it straight.
The rest of the cast includes Pre-Cheers Shelley Long (her first substantial movie role), Dennis Quaid (Innerspace) and Jack Gilford (Cocoon) as Long’s blind father. Older viewers will get a kick out of seeing Avery Schreiber, the king of Doritos commercials, as one of the cavemen. Also, with Evan C. Kim, best remembered as one of the stars of the hilarious The Kentucky Fried Movie (1977) (segment “A Fistful of Yen”) and Carl Lumbly (Marcus in Cagney & Lacey, and the star of the cult TV series M.A.N.T.I.S.).
Conclusions & Final Thoughts:
I hadn’t seen Caveman since I was a kid, so I was surprised by how much I enjoyed it — it’s like a cross between The Flintstones and Quest for Fire. It also seems to be paying tribute to silent film comedies. Joyfully directed by Carl Gottlieb (best known for co-writing the Jaws movies), this is, admittedly, geared towards fifth graders, but adults with a penchant for silliness will love it as well. Color, 91 minutes, Rated PG.