That Brendan Fraser plays a Neanderthal in Encino Man is a good metaphor for this early stage of his comic career -- he's developed some of the physical and vocal patterns of his later success, but he clearly hasn't yet evolved. Having shown promise in School Ties that same year, Fraser is no doubt acting down to the level of the material, which requires mostly grunts and wild gesticulations from him. Retrofitting a caveman with skateboarder duds and teen lingo was an inevitable idea for a movie, but Encino Man isn't quite as moronic as a viewer might expect, given Pauly Shore's involvement. At the center of either his own TV show or star vehicle, Shore is intolerable, but with less of the movie to carry, his grating schtick induces fewer groans. Aiming for the same audience as Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure, and using the same Southern California high school setting and fish-out-of-water/time themes, Encino Man occasionally rises to the level of a harmless, guilty pleasure. Fraser's physical comedy warrants some laughs, and the writing earns the odd grin now and again. Hearty thanks also go to Sean Astin for offsetting some of Shore's antics. Still, this bone-headed outing is much better suited to high school boys fluent in Shore's dated dudespeak.
by Derek Armstrong review