Caveman (1980)

Rating: **
Review Date: 8/15/22
Special Effects: Jim Danforth
Cast: Ringo Starr, Barbara Bach, Dennis Quaid, Shelley Long, John Matuszak, Richard Moll

"They don't call it The Stone Age for nothing."

Atouk (Ringo Starr) is the equivalent of a nerd caveman. He's small, weak, timid, awkward, and unpopular, but kind-hearted and slightly smarter than the rest. As a result, he's always getting picked on by Tonda (John Matuszak), the big bully tribe leader. To make matters worse, Atouk longs for Tonda's mate, Lana (Barbara Bach), and continually puts himself in harm's way to garner her fleeting attention and affection. One night he goes too far and Tonda violently kicks him out of the tribe. While wandering in the desert, he befriends numerous other outcasts and is soon leading a tribe of his own. A cute flat-chested cavegirl named Tala (Shelley Long) falls in love with Atouk, but he only has eyes for the busty Lana and devotes all of his efforts towards defeating Tonda and stealing her away. Typical male mentality.

It's a painfully stupid "wimpy nerd gets the girl" comedy, which were popular in the 80's, and it's rather baffling why it even exists. Reportedly, one of the film's producers thought it would be funny to make a spoof of "One Million Years B.C." (1967), complete with primitive language, fur bikinis, and stop-motion dinosaurs courtesy of Jim Danforth. The humor is pretty terrible, and it's an eye-opening experience to see actors like Dennis Quaid and a fresh-faced Shelley Long in a production like this. This was Shelley Long's theatrical debut, and it's amazing that her career didn't completely tank as a result. The choice of Ringo Starr as the lead is also curious, but he affably bumbles through it and seems to be totally in on the joke. It ultimately worked out well for him, as he and Barbara Bach got married shortly after the film came out.

While many people dismissed the special effects as underwhelming, I found the dinosaurs to be the best part of the film. As a contemporary of Ray Harryhausen, Jim Danforth's animation is extremely good, even if the dinosaurs themselves are rather silly and not to be taken seriously. So I gave it two stars just for that. The rest can be very tedious and difficult to watch, although the Mexican scenery is quite pleasant. Clearly a product of its time, it's difficult to appreciate without knowledge of the source material and awareness of the political climate as the unsuspecting country entered the Reagan years.