Adam Rifkin is one of the more unusual directors working in movies today. If you havenâ€™t heard of him itâ€™s probably because his films are mostly low budget features that get limited releases in New York and Los Angeles before finding their way to DVD and developing a cult following. His films are as varied as the nourish The Dark Backward, to Hollywood type movies like The Chase and Detroit Rock City, to gritty, experimental films such as Night at the Golden Eagle and Look. While he earns nice paychecks as an in demand screenwriter, Rifkin is to be respected for following his muse and constantly challenging himself as a filmmaker and entertainer. His latest film is National Lampoonâ€™s Stoned Age (formerly Homo Erectus), a slapstick comedy that is meant to be thought provoking while making you laugh at mastodon dung jokes. While it is not the worldâ€™s funniest comedy, it grows on you as it progresses, sort of like how Office Space gets funnier as the lunacy is piled on. I imagine that after repeated viewings, Stoned Age could possibly attain a cult following similar to Mike Judgeâ€™s film.
Rifkin stars as Ishbo, a philosophical caveman who yearns for more out of life than just sticks and stones. He wants to improve the way of living for his prehistoric tribe so he invents things like pants, and a ladder. Of course, his family and friends think heâ€™s nuts and wish heâ€™d just act more like his blockhead brother (played by Hayes MacArthur). Alas, Ishbo is really just trying to impress the girl of his dreams (Ali Larter) and ultimately get laid by something other than a chimpanzee. The film follows his journey from tribe jester to almost hero to scapegoat, all with plenty of physical comedy and gratuitous nudity (he runs into a tribe of, er, hairy Amazon womenâ€¦ you have to see it).
Not every joke in Stoned Age works, in fact, many of them fall flat. However, the actors were obviously having a good old time making this movie (somewhere out in the middle of Texas) and it comes through in the final cut. David Carradine plays Ishboâ€™s father and I havenâ€™t seen this guy so looseâ€¦ ever. Furthermore, Ali Larter shows more life in these 88 minutes than she has in the past two seasons of Heroes. But itâ€™s Rifkin who makes the film most enjoyable. His deadpan narration and bumbling performance bring to mind early Woody Allen and Mel Brooks. In fact, that was what Rifkin was hoping to achieve with Stoned Age. Thatâ€™s not to say that Rifkin is as talented on camera as those two comedy legends, but he does have an underdog charm that makes you root for Ishbo as youâ€™re cracking a smile at the fiftieth time heâ€™s hit in the head with a rock.
The DVD comes with a nice selection of extras including some deleted scenes, behind the scenes footage at both a Maxim shoot and a Penthouse shoot (like I said, gratuitous nudity) and directorâ€™s commentary. However, itâ€™s the Q & A with Rifkin thatâ€™s most worth checking out. His manic energy is so contagious itâ€™s no wonder his cult followers are so faithful.
National Lampoonâ€™s Stoned Age is available through Amazon.