An utterly unevolved romantic comedy, “Cavemen” tries to split the difference between raunchy and sweet and fails miserably on all counts. The presence of “Pitch Perfect” leading man Skylar Astin as a struggling Los Angeles screenwriter won’t help this low-budget and even lower-impact pic’s prospects for success. Auds in the Paleolithic Era might have been more receptive, if only because they weren’t yet inundated by the tiresome cliches writer-director Herschel Faber indulges in here.
Dean (Astin) and his three male roommates live in a trendy downtown loft they’ve dubbed “the cave.” All aspiring artists in some way, they’re like the crew from “Swingers” as reimagined by the creators of an “American Pie” direct-to-DVD sequel. The only one who really matters besides Dean is fellow bartender Jay (Chad Michael Murray), a cloyingly narcissistic ladies man who brags endlessly about his numerous conquests.
Dean, meanwhile, is determined to find love but clueless about how to get it. The most obvious g.f. candidate would be his trusty gal pal Tess (Camilla Belle), with whom he spends late-night calls discussing a “Dating Game”-esque gameshow. Alas, the gentlemanly Dean refuses to cross the friendship line. That leaves Jay to get there first, despite little reason for Tess to fall for his skeevy advances, and Dean instead takes up with wild Kat (Alexis Knapp).
Faber’s script keeps inventing obstacles to throw in the way of Dean and Tess’ inevitable romantic breakthrough while telegraphing where it’s going the whole time. Not that auds will be in any rush to get to the foregone conclusion, given the complete lack of chemistry between a perfectly affable Astin and a strangely somnambulistic Belle. Theoretically, what “Cavemen” lacks in the romance department could have been compensated for by some degree of R-rated debauchery, but aside from a few bare breasts and mild sexual encounters, Faber simply loads up on blandly sleazy dialogue. Feeble attempts at coining catchphrases, like Jay’s “She’s giving you E” (as in energy), are just embarrassing.
The film’s most unintentionally hilarious moment arrives during an inexplicable (and uncredited) cameo from Jason Patric, as a talent rep who warms to Dean’s generic scripting and tells him, “You have a good solid understanding of the craft.” Consider it the hack screenwriter’s version of romantic-comedy wish fulfillment. Lively bloopers accompanying the closing credits surprisingly suggest the actors enjoyed making the movie.