In the first Ice Age, a Cro-Magnon man (Fraser) is caught in an avalanche and ends up frozen in a block of ice. Millions of years later, in what eventually becomes Encino, California, that block of ice winds up in the back yard of a popularity-obsessed high-school senior named Dave (Astin), who finds it while digging his swimming pool. Hoping that his discovery will earn them fame, fortune and, most importantly, the affection of his crush Robyn (Megan Ward), Dave enlists the help of his air-headed friend Stoney (Shore) to dig the cave man up and thaw him out. Once unfrozen, the two clean him up, dub him Link (as in "missing link") and bring him to their school, passing him off as an Estonian exchange student while educating him on everything that late 20th century suburbia has to offer.
"No wheezin' on the tro-opes.":
- All Cavemen Were Neanderthals: Averted. Though Dave calls him "the missing link" at one point, which inspired him to name him Link.
- An Aesop: Popularity is not as important as being true to yourself.
- Alpha Bitch: Robyn's friend Ella.
- Annoying Younger Sibling: Dave's younger sister Teena. In the beginning, she gives him a hard time about his party plan to make himself popular. She's aware Dave is lying about the "foreign exchange student", and tried and failed to bust him.
- Asian and Nerdy: The lone Asian student to play a (minor) role is portrayed as an overenthusiastic geek, always trying to get more students to join the Computer Club.
- "Be Quiet!" Nudge: Dave hits Stoney in the arm when he believes they found a caveman.Dave: Would you please?!
- Big Eater: He's often seen eating, even things that aren't food.
- Brain Freeze: Link experiences one after Stoney's lesson on "wheezing the juice". His mouth is still full of slush drink as he silently clutches at his head.
- Bratty Teenage Daughter: Teena. Not one of her scenes has her saying anything to her brother that isn't an insult.
- Brick Joke: Link learns some Spanish in school. He later speaks two sentences from the class while confronting the man at the bar for dancing with his lady."The cheese is old and moldy. Where is the bathroom?"
- Buffy Speak: Robyn still doesn't get that "parallel parking thing".Driving instructor: Parallel parking is not a 'thing', alright? It's not a feeling, it's not a state-of-mind, it's not one of your personal disco records.
- Car Skiing: What happens when Link is told to get in the car with Robyn.Driving instructor: Get inside the car. And shoot your barber.
- Chekhov's Skill: Link learning martial arts and wrestling moves from movies and tapes.
- Death Glare: Link, when Matt punched the glass he was drawing on with mustard. Accompanied by Kung Fu music.
- Exactly What It Says on the Tin: Stoney is, well, a stoner. At least a heavily implied one.
- Extreme Omnivore: Link will eat anything. Anything.
- Flat "What": Dave says this when Robyn says she wants to go to the dance with Link instead.
Dave: You want me to what?!
- Big "WHAT?!": When Robyn tells Dave to ask Link if he likes to go to the prom with her.
- Happily Married: From what little we see of them, Link and his partner seemed to have been very happy together, as she tries desperately in vain to save him when he's about to get frozen.
- Hate at First Sight: Matt immediately takes an extreme dislike of Link. Demonstrated by cracking his knuckles, and later when Matt punched the glass Link was drawing on with mustard."Who is this dipshit anyway?"
- Has a Type: Ella (Robyn's friend) seems to have a thing for men who are dominant and aggressive. During the science teacher's lecture on prehistoric man, Ella seems to like hearing that a caveman "takes what he wants." Later, when she meets Link for the first time and he grabs her possessively, Ella acts excited rather than frightened.
- Here We Go Again!: After everything is settled Link's mate from the past is discovered in their pool and the whole mess is starting over again.
- Heroic BSoD: Link freaks out at the museum. See Mood Whiplash below.
- Human Popsicle: Link, and his wife, having been frozen in the Ice Age and thawed out in modern times.
- Ironic Echo: Matt says "SHUUUSH!" several times. Near the end, Stoney says this to him after Matt gets his just desserts (literally).
- Kick the Dog: When Dave calls Robyn from jail to ask her to the prom and she rejects him... which in and of itself is not a cruel thing, but then she asks him to find out if Link will go to the prom with her. Way to rub salt in the wound, Robyn.
- Little "No": Link's first word.(Link was about to use a lit match to make a fire)
Dave: Hey! (takes the match away) No!
Dave: What? Did you just... ?Stoney: We'll teach him how to wheeze.
[Link throws a blunt object at them]
Link: NO! NO!
- Like a Duck Takes to Water: Well, not a lawyer, but otherwise Link fits both the trope and the name to a T.
- Market-Based Title: Outside the USA, the film was titled California Man as the neighbourhood of Encino is not widely known outside the country.
- Makeover Montage: Dave and Stoney transform Link from a muddy, clay-caked naked wild man into a goofy-looking 90s teenager through the magic of a completely unnecessary and ineffectual haircut, a toothbrush, and lots and lots of soap. Link even wears a towel turban for part of the scene. And the montage is set to "I'm Too Sexy" by Right Said Fred.
- Missed Him by That Much: While car-skiing, the four teens drove pass a shocked Mrs. Morgan and an amused Teena.
- Mood Whiplash: The museum field trip, where Link realizes what exactly has happened to him (and the presumed fate of his wife).
- No, You:Stoney: Maybe Matt Wilson was right about you all along.
Dave: You take that back!
Stoney: No, you take it back.
Dave: TAKE IT BACK!
[The two fight each other until Link stops them.]
- Noodle Incident: While speculating the identity of the body in the pool, Stoney mentions "Jimmy Mahooney", a fellow cub scout who went missing.
- Not Now, Kiddo: When they found the frozen caveman ("There's a guy buried in my pool."), they both scream and ran to Dave's mom's office banging at her window while she's on the phone. They try to tell her there's a body and to call 911, but she tells them she's working and closes the drapes at them.
- Nubile Savage: Initially averted with both Link and his wife, who are dirty, have rotten teeth, and are clothed in lots of furs (they are living through an ice age). However, Link cleans up nice, and at the end, so does his wife.
- Ow, My Body Part!Stoney: Ow! My pancreas!
- Poor Communication Kills: Dave tells Robyn he found a caveman in the pool in his backyard and wants to show it to her. She just laughs, but when he's insisting, she then makes herself clear to him.
- Product Placement: Big time. Products they mention by name include Doritos, Ho-Hos, Milkduds, ICEEs, Taco Bell, SweeTarts, Corn Nuts, and Rad Mobile.
- Rake Take: Shortly after being thawed out, Link steps on a rake and gets hit in the face.
- Secret Chaser: Matt becomes this after he finds out Link's school file contains a dog license.
- Skyward Scream: Link screams at a passing helicopter above him.
- Stranger in a Familiar Land: After getting thawed out, Link immediately finds out that his home has changed quite a lot after millions of years.
- Surfer Dude: Stoney, buuuuuuddy!
- Thanks for the Mammary: "Gonzongas!"(Link stares at Robyn and Ella's chest and tries to grab them, but Dave pulls him away]
Stoney: (to Ella) I think he was saying he likes your cones.
Ella: I'm thrilled. (pushes Stoney) Get out of my face!
- Those Two Guys: The two skaters.
- Totally Radical: Stoney, as is to be expected with Pauly Shore playing his "weasel" character. At one point, he attempts to hold an entire conversation with Dave's father using nothing by Valley slang."If you're edged 'cause I'm weazin all your grindage, just chill. 'Cause if I had the whole Brady Bunch thing happenin' at my pad, I'd go grind over there, so don't tax my gig so hard-core cruster."
- The Voiceless: Link, for most of the movie. Though he does pick up some words, he only understands about half of what he says, so he communicates primarily through body language.
- Walk This Way: As the class heads to the museum, Stoney (exaggerately) mimics the way Matt Wilson's cohorts walk, while walking behind them.
- What Does She See in Him?: Robyn goes out with Matt at the start of the movie, which Dave just found out. He even says this. Soon she broke up with him due to his jerkass-ness.
- What the Hell, Hero?: Stoney gives Dave one of these when Dave tries to abandon Link. Stoney points out that Dave never viewed Link as a friend, but just a tool to help him become popular. Dave gives a little back by saying that Stoney never cared about anything before except "nugs, chillin' and grindage", and "made [him] do the dirty work". Stoney calls him out on the accusation.Stoney: Those are desperate words of a loser! Maybe Matt Wilson was right about you all along.
- Wild Hair: Link, obviously. Even though the boys give him a haircut. Stoney's also got quite a doo sittin' on top of his melon.
- You Can't Go Home Again: Link, when he realizes his world, his old life, and his wife is gone. However, his wife has also been frozen in ice and is reunited with Link.
- Your Mom:Matt: Going somewhere?
Dave: Yeah, got a date with your mom.
Matt: Now that's not nice.
Dave: It's just a joke, I'm sorry.