Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Troglodad's Movie Re-View: Caveman (1981)

Today's Movies and TV programs might seem too much for some parents to share with impressionable children. But before you pop in a classic from years gone by, make sure it too isn't a bit rough around the edges...
Cavemen. Kids find them funny, from Fred Flintstone to the Geico insurance guys. But if you're looking for a caveman movie to share with your kids, you might want to think twice about Caveman (1981).
Starring Ringo Starr, Shelley Long, Barbara Bach and Dennis Quaid, Caveman was on of those flicks I remember watching after (middle) school in the 1980s. Back when Showtime, HBO and the Movie Channel were so young. I didn't remember anything particularly bad about the movie- just that it was very Airplane-ish, and the people in it didn't speak English- instead opting for a parody grunting-language.
So color me surprised when I fired up Netflix this past weekend and decided to share the film with my two daughters, ages 4 and 10.
Out of the gate, Caveman seems okay. Poor Atouk (Starr) is the wimpy neanderthal who gets no respect because he's brainy not brawny. Maybe this movie was going to have a moral lesson? Sure enough, Atouk fawns over the hottest Wilma in the tribe- Lana (Bach), who herself only has eyes for the brawny leader of the tribe, Tonda (John Matuszak). Poor Atouc shares food he was smart enough to stash for a rainy day with Lana. She promptly brings it to her brutish man to win favor.
As the movie progresses, Atouc is used by the hunters to taste test a new fruit. They discover it makes one very sleepy. Drugged? Uh-oh. Aside from the obvious plot point this will become later, I didn't like having to explain drug use in the film to my girls. Nothing funny about that.
Worse, Atouc tricks Lana and Tonda into eating the fruit. Once they are knocked out (and the rest of the tribe slumbers in the communal cave) he tries to cuddle up to Lana right next to Tonda. Oh, crap... I  saw where this was headed. Sure enough, Atouc tries to position the drugged Lana for some lovin', prying and positioning her sleeping limbs into a unseemly position. She comedically rolls aside as he leaps onto her- promptly humping the cave floor for a few seconds before he realizes she has moved. Then he falls asleep. Har-dee-har-har.
Atouc is then rightfully kicked out of the tribe the next morning after he passes out next to Tonda and Lana and sleeps alongside them. From there, Atouc goes on his merry way, finding his lost friend Lar (Quaid) and meeting new folks along the way, like blonde Tala (Long). Atouc, being smarter, manages to discover (accidentally) fire and its use, and his makeshift tribe of outcasts quickly begins living better than Atouc's former tribe. In the end, Atouc is reunited with his tribe, manages to become the new leader and dumps (literally) Lana when she begins to show him favor. In the end, he walks off into the sunset (or cave) with Tala, to procreate happily ever after.
Okay, so the film does have some good lessons for kids- brains are important, and loyalty is rewarded. It has some harmless humor too. I suppose if it had been on DVD, I could have fast-forwarded, or chapter skipped past the cave-humping scene. But Netflix isn't so good at fast forwarding for me. Maybe it's my slow connection.
Having daughters, though, I worry about the portrayal of Tala as less appealing than Lana. Tala was blonde and wasn't bulging out of her clothes. Don't get me wrong, Barbara Bach was a hottie back then, but Shelley Long was no ugly duckling. Still, it makes it seem like girls have to be smart or pretty, and can't be both. Geeze, no wonder women like Sarah Palin have such a tough time these days- years of stereotyping by Hollyweird makes the populace look at them like freaks.
In any event, I'd recommend against this movie for your kids. It was intended for adults, and if your kids haven't had the birds-and-the-bees talk yet, why risk having it mid-movie?
Now if you'll pardon me, I have to go let Dino in...

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