February 03, 1986 12:00 PM

Daryl Hannah probably doesn’t have to worry about this movie doing for her career what When Dinosaurs Ruled the Earth did for Magda Konopka’s. (If you’re asking “Magda who?” you get the idea.) Based on the Jean Auel novel, this film makes no attempt to reflect the desperation of early man as the grim Quest for Fire did; nor is it one of those dinosaur-filled epics. It’s more like a prehistoric Dallas, with the Cave Bearites constantly squabbling over who’s running the place, wondering who’s going to mate with whom and swapping family tales. They speak to each other in sign language and grunts, though the accompanying subtitles render their exchanges as Socratic dialogues conducted in Shakespearian English. Hannah plays an outsider whom the Clan regards as peculiar. It’s easy to see why, since everyone else is heavily made up with jutting brows and pounds of hair, while Daryl is her blond, all-American self. She’s supposed to be one of the Others, which makes sense only if the Others are a bunch of collegians who are running a mammoth-burger franchise nearby so they’ll have some spending money at Malibu. Hannah is very inventive. She shows the Cave Bearites how to count and, by example, braid their hair cutely. She invents depression and then, while off moping in the woods, happens upon a cozy little hole in the mountain. She claims it for herself, thereby creating the concept of the vacation home. She is also obviously the first feminist, defying the male elders at every turn. Michael (All the Right Moves) Chapman directed, from a screenplay by John (The Brother From Another Planet) Sayles. They get the most out of their British Columbia locations. The film is never very involving though, and the ending is rather abrupt. If you want Hannah to settle down into her cave, sweet cave at the end, you’ll be disappointed. (R)

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