Judge Gordon Sullivan's man cave is an actual cave.
Downtown LA is their playground.
There's an active question around those who study genre: What makes the exemplary films of the genre exemplary? Is it that they're special, with some elements we don't see in other films? Or is it that they take all the elements we're used to and execute them with particular skill? Or, put another way, does predictability matter when it comes to enjoying a genre film, or is it more important that the elements we expect be performed nimbly? Cavemen makes the case that it's execution, not originality, that matters. It fails not because it's expected, but because the execution is a bit too listless. Perhaps "fails" is too strong a word, as Cavemen will have some appeal to those who like dating comedies.
Dean (Skylar Astin, Ground Floor) lives with three of his friends in a warehouse in LA that they call the Cave, making them the Cavemen of the title. Dean's a screenwriter, and the adventures of his friends on the dating circuit, along with his own attempts, provide him with material for his work. Unsurprisingly, dating in modern LA isn't easy, especially when you have a hot best friend (Camille Belle) making things confusing.
I have never had to experience the world of dating in a big city, but to judge by films like Cavemen, it's a cesspit of disappointment and terror. Which is really another way of saying this exists to say the same things you expect a film about young men finding love in the big city to say: there are a lot of weird people to date, it often ends in disaster, and friends can be both helpful and terrible. Ultimately, though, films like this exist to tell us the dating scene, especially if it's full of one-night stands, is an empty lie. What we all really need to do is settle down with the one. Of course, finding the one is difficult unless you date, and that's where much of the humor in Cavemen resides.
However, we've seen these montages before: first dates are terrible!—we've seen these characters before—from the vulnerable romantic lead to the sex-fiend friend—and we've basically seen this movie before. That's not a huge problem, but the execution here never rises above mediocre. The cast is pretty, the cinematography competent, but nothing about the film or its presentation stand out. With no compelling hook to hang the film on, Cavemen ends up being entirely forgettable.
All this wouldn't be so bad if Cavemen had even a slightly more original take on the material. There are hints that a better film is waiting like a butterfly inside this cocoon. If, for instance, the film had fully exploited the fact that Dean is a screenwriter, giving the film a "meta" edge, that might have set the film apart and given even more opportunities for new and genuine laughs (as opposed to the tired retreads that pass for jokes in most of the film). They even could have exploited the warehouse "cave" for more gags—four dudes living together with curtain instead of walls between them sounds pretty funny to me, but Cavemen lands only glancing blows with this target.
At least Cavemen (Blu-ray) is decent. Shot digitally, the film gets a 2.40:1/1080p AVC-encoded transfer that looks good. Given that this film is about the generally nighttime activity of dating, black tones are the most significant element for much of the runtime. For this transfer they're generally deep and consistent. Detail is otherwise high, with colors appropriately rendered, especially flesh tones. The film's all-important dialogue comes through clean and clear with this DTS-HD 5.1 track…the dialogue is well-balanced with the film's music, which often fills the surrounds out.
The disc's lone extra is the film's trailer.
It would be overstating the case to call Cavemen bad. It doesn't hit the highest notes of the genre, but it also doesn't fall completely flat either. The cast is game, and the formula successful enough that some viewers will find pleasure in the film when they've exhausted more fertile films. The lack of extras is an especial shame with this release, as hearing some more about what the creative team were trying to achieve—especially where the more interesting touches like the use of subway announcements to comment on Dean's character—with the film.
Cavemen is a by-the-numbers rom-com, with the emphasis on the com. It skews a bit towards the male perspective, but isn't afraid to go dramatic towards the end. It's probably worth a rental to fans of the genre or the actors, but the average viewer can feel free to skip it.
Not great, but not guilty.
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