Neander-Jin: The Return of the Neanderthal Man: Film Review

This desperately unfunny comedy gives Neanderthals a bad name.

A primitive man shows up in modern-day Germany in this screwball comedy from director Florian Steinbiss.

Neander-Jin: The Return of the Neanderthal Man is a desperately unfunny comedy whose premise and execution are as ungainly as its title. Directed by debuting German filmmaker Florian Steinbiss, who really shouldn’t quit his day job, this amateurish effort has garnered some awards at obscure film festivals. But much like its titular inspiration, it’s bound to go extinct after its limited theatrical release.

Steinbiss, the press notes breathlessly informs, grew up just miles from the German valley where the remains of the first Neanderthal man were discovered. Unfortunately, that seems to have provided little inspiration for this sketch-like effort straining to fill its mercifully brief feature-length running time.

It concerns the miraculous appearance in modern-day Germany — despite its provenance and setting, the film is in English — of a time-traveling Neanderthal man (Jon Chardiet) who inevitably causes a stir among the more unscrupulous figures with whom he comes into contact. Attempting to protect him from the corrupt forces of commercialism — yes, that predictable villain, reality television, comes into the picture—is the comely Barbara van Schmerling (Sarah Muehlhause), a young environmental activist whose feelings for the prehistoric visitor soon take a romantic turn.

It’s difficult to describe the plot in greater detail, since the convoluted goings-on are nearly nonsensical. Suffice it to say co-screenwriters Steinbliss and Jeff Hixon, both of whom also play small roles, are unable to infuse the proceedings with the slightest degree of wit. It all makes the short-lived ABC sitcom Cavemen, based on the GEICO television commercials, seem the height of sophistication by comparison.

Given virtually nothing to work with, the actors resort to shamelessly mugging for the camera, with only the charming Muehlhause managing to preserve a shred of dignity. Like her character who falls in love with the primitive man, she deserves better.

Opens: Friday, July 26 (Constant Flow Productions)

Cast: Jon Chardiet, Sarah Muehlhause, Milton Webb, Rosalind Ayres, Rick Zieff, Martin Jarvis

Director/producer: Florian Steinbiss

Screenwriters: Florian Steinbiss, Jeff Hixon

Executive producer: Jeff Hixon

Director of photography: Chris Hilden

Editor: Avgusta Cherneva

Production designer: Leticia Raasch de Oliviera

Costume designers: Avgusta Cherneva, Leticia Raasch de Oliviera     

Composer: Bruce Hanifan

Not rated, 81 min.