National Lampoon’s Stoned Age - Unrated
Directed by Adam Rifkin
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 anamorphic
Running Time: 88 minutes
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1, 2.0 stereo English
Subtitles: English, Spanish
MSRP: $ 28.98
Release Date: January 20, 2009
Review Date: January 13, 2009
In theaters for a dismal run last fall, this film was known as National Lampoon’s Homo Erectus. On DVD, it now carries the moniker National Lampoon’s Stoned Age (allegedly due to rental distributors objecting to the original title as suggestive of gay porn). Under any name, the movie is a hopeless, hapless, helpless embarrassment. A gaggle of famous actors in supporting roles mugging shamelessly in a caveman comedy of no distinction, Stoned Age wants to be a Neanderthal Sleeper, but unlike that small Woody Allen gem, there’s no wit or warmth to be seen, but there are plenty of poop jokes to go around and, with the National Lampoon endorsement, enough topless babes to provide momentary interest at the frat house before the real partying gets started.
Neanderthal nerd Ishbo (Adam Rifkin) is a tribal outcast, full of clever inventions like bicycles, chairs, fishing nets, pants, and sun visors (none of which impress his tribe), but he is not one of the guys when it comes to bashing women on the head and dragging them back to the cave for some Cro-Magnon nookie. He’s only got eyes for the lovely Fardart (Ali Larter), but his studly big brother Thudnik (Hayes MacArthur) claims her first, and lovesick Ishbo can’t seem to change her mind. Faced with intense sexual frustration as well as the daunting task of becoming a warrior for the upcoming face-off with rival tribe the Benedrex, Ishbo doubles his efforts to fit in and become one with his brother cavemen.
Adam Rifkin has written, directed and starred in his own movie, and while his nerdy Ishbo isn’t an objectionable leading character for a farce about the ancients, his writing and directing constantly let him down. Falling into a huge pile of mastodon dung isn’t funny (nor are the dozens of other poop, fart, and stoner jokes he’s inserted in this ragtag script), and narrating the film a la Woody Allen’s early movies like Take the Money and Run doesn’t add any kind of dry wit or sophistication to improve the script’s ineptitude either. Shoving anachronistic items like eyeglasses, modern slang, bongs, and military protocol lingo into the picture seems desperate enough without having an 84-year old man (William Tyree) doing his entire role in the nude or letting Oscar-nominated actors like Gary Busey and Talia Shire mug shamelessly at the camera. The man who wrote Mouse Hunt should have more imagination than this.
Top-notch comedy acting requires more than showing up in a funny costume, but many of the attractive actors in the film, including Ali Larter, Hayes MacArthur, and Carol Alt (Queen Fallopia, the leader of a tribe of Amazon cavewomen) don’t have much to offer other than their looks. As for the more famous names in the cast, David Carradine and Talia Shire as Rifkin’s parents, Gary Busey as a rival warrior witchdoctor, and Tom Arnold as the even more isolated gay caveman Rog, the less said the better. None of them should be placing their work in this film at the top of any resumes.
Though the packaging claims the disc is a full frame transfer (which would have been the last nail in this film’s Neanderthal coffin), it’s actually encoded at 1.78:1 with anamorphic enhancement. Ironically, this transfer is sharper, richer, and more colorful than the DVD transfers of such higher profile Paramount items as Iron Man and Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. In fact, were it not for a slightly inconsistent quality of flesh tones (which sometimes run a bit hot, and not just on the topless women), this transfer would have earned a top score. The film has been divided into 9 chapters.
The Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track has impressive deep bass on occasion, but the surrounds are mostly used for the unimpressive music while the remainder of the ambient sound seems to be very much front directed and uninventively mixed.
Director Adam Rifkin contributes an audio commentary which is about 10% commentary on the film and 90% comments to two friends in the room with him, editor-buddy Peter Shink and personal assistant Shane McAvoy, both of whom come in for some continually foolish faux-threats and abuse as they kid around for most of the film.
“Cavemen in Love” music video is available for viewing in both regular and unrated (lots of topless girls) form. In nonanamorphic widescreen, the videos run for 4 minutes each.
Two photo shoots with the buxom female extras on the film get individual featurettes on the disc. The one for Penthouse (the more explicit of the two) runs 9 ½ minutes while the one for Maxim runs 17 ¼ minutes. Both are in 4:3.
There is one deleted scene which runs for 2 minutes and is basically nothing but the topless female extras cavorting for the camera.
A gay-vemen featurette has two stereotypical gay cavemen walking through modern day Los Angeles in a silly two minute throwaway 4:3 vignette.
Director-writer-star Adam Rifkin participates in a Q&A session after the premiere screening of his movie in Los Angeles. The session lasts 15 ¾ minutes though all of the information here is also imparted in the audio commentary which accompanies the feature.
The blooper reel consists only of 84-year old actor William Tyree trying to get his lines right for one silly scene with the director. It runs for 4 ¼ minutes.
A comic book version of the film can be accessed through the disc’s DVD-ROM capabilities.
The original theatrical title screen (Homo Erectus) is shown in all of its 26 seconds of cinematic glory.
The trailer for the DVD version of the movie (carrying the new title) runs 1 ½ minutes and is in anamorphic video.
Two scenes from the film are shown with superimposed empty theater (1 ¼ minutes) and full theater (2 ¼ minutes) audiences.
There are also preview trailers for Van Wilder: Freshman Year, National Lampoon’s Bagboy, and National Lampoon’s Electric Apricot.
In a year of miserable Paramount screen comedies (Drillbit Taylor, The Love Guru, Strange Wilderness, Without a Paddle: Nature‘s Calling), National Lampoon’s Stoned Age might not be the worst of the lot, but it certainly comes close. Forgettable in every respect except for the wonderful video transfer of such substandard comedy material, this is a film which will likely please only the least discriminating viewers.