MRR Review: "Cavemen"

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"Cavemen" is a comedic film with a slight edge of drama revolving around the lives of somewhat single, somewhat unemployed guys living in Downtown Los Angeles, California as they are toil with adulthood and the realities of love.
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Rating: R
Length: 88 minutes
Release Date: October 26, 2013
Directed by: Herschel Faber
Genre: Romantic Comedy

"Cavemen" is a romantic comedy written and directed by Herschel Faber that debuted at the Austin Film Festival in October 2013. The film stars Skylar Astin, Camilla Belle, Chad Michael Murray and Alexis Knapp. Astin plays Dean, a Los Angeles screenwriter who has difficulty finding romance in both his scripts and his personal life. He ventures into the LA dating scene in a quest to find true love and creative inspiration, running into a bunch of wacky people who are all trying to navigate their own way through the world of Los Angeles singledom. His friends provide a support structure for him, especially his best friend Tess, who is played by Camilla Belle. Dean and Tess have a longstanding chemistry, but Dean isn't sure if it's worth risking their friendship to seek something more.

A romantic comedy lives and dies on the strength of its cast. Fortunately, "Cavemen" benefits from leads who have tremendous chemistry with each other. Obviously, the central relationship in the film is between Dean and Tess. While the situations the two find themselves in frequently lend themselves to rom-com cliché, Astin and Belle carry the scenes with a warmth and humor that makes the audience root for them.

The relationships between Dean and his other friends are also elevated by the performances of the cast members. Dean's group of guy friends are afflicted with the typical problems of the romantic comedy genre. Jay, played by Chad Michael Murray, is a sex-crazed frat-boy type who offers Dean questionable romantic advice at various points, but he genuinely cares for his friend's well-being. The film gets its name because Dean, Jay and two of their pals live together in a loft they jokingly call "The Cave." One "mentor" who does not live in The Cave is Dean's 9-year-old nephew Jimmy, played capably by Kaden Gibson. Dean's conversations with a child about the trials of love and dating provide some predictable, yet still amusing, moments of awkwardness.

As the film progresses, Dean's friends also find themselves in their own romantic entanglements that serve to develop those characters. His friends appear to be living their own lives rather than just standing by as props to play into Dean and Tess' story. While some of these developments distract from the main story arc involving Dean and Tess, these interludes and complications are generally welcome.

The film does its best to delay the development of the romantic relationship between Dean and Tess for as long as possible during the brief 88-minute running time. Jay, ever the ladies' man, makes a play for Tess when Dean refuses to, so Dean starts dating the quirky Kat, played by Alexis Knapp. While there is humor during these relationship-going-wrong scenarios, mostly from Dean's puzzlement at Kat's odd behavior, there isn't much doubt about where the story and the leads eventually land. One appearance that does surprise is Jason Patric's turn as a talent agent who looks at Dean's work. Patric's cameo role is well-publicized in the film's promotional materials, so mentioning him isn't a spoiler. However, his appearance is a funnier moment in the film, and saying anything more about it does a disservice to the audience.

"Cavemen" benefits from an enjoyable soundtrack as well, featuring songs from Golden State, Names of Stars, Mathclub, Foghat and Blink-182. The production design helps establish the world these characters live in. However, the loft known as The Cave feels a little under-developed as far as how living in such a space affects the relationships between the three friends. This may be less due to the actual set and more due to the script's lack of focus on that element of these characters' lives. However, when the location is important enough to become part of the film's title, further development would demonstrate its role in the men's lives with each other.

"Cavemen" shares some common elements with other recent romantic comedies that rely on sex jokes and vulgarity for much of their humor, but this isn't necessarily a bad thing for fans of the genre. R-rated romantic comedies tend to be fairly rare, so it's worth seeking them out when they appear. "Cavemen" doesn't distinguish itself from the other dating movies that it frequently emulates, but the chemistry of its leads and a talented supporting cast make the film a better whole than the sum of its parts. While there are few surprises to be found in the story, those looking for a night of romance and laughs could do a lot worse.

Rating: 3 out of 5