Movie Review
Year One
Year One poster
By Craig Younkin     Published June 18, 2009
US Release: June 19, 2009

Directed by: Harold Ramis
Starring: Jack Black , Michael Cera , Olivia Wilde , David Cross

PG-13 for crude and sexual content throughout, brief strong language and comic violence.

Domestic Box Office: $43,337,279
It’s bad. It’s really, really, really bad. Ramis and co. are going for a little bit of Mel Brooks, a little bit of Seinfeld, and a little Monty Python, just they fail miserably at all three.
“Bruno” is coming in three weeks, “Bruno” is coming in three weeks. That’s a little chant you can soothe your head with if you so happen to go through the misfortune of watching “Year One.” About as detestable a movie as anyone could imagine, one wonders why Sony decided to screen it for critics to begin with and wonders even more why they couldn’t at least show us something afterwards to erase it completely from our memories. It’s bad. It’s really, really, really bad. It’s unimaginable that a worse movie could possibly come out this year. Harold Ramis, the man who directed “Caddyshack” and “Groundhog Day” for crying out loud; what has happened to you? What did the movie audience do to you to deserve this movie? The only funny thing about it is that a competent person directed it, that people who have been funny before starred in it, and yes, even funny people wrote it.

The story centers around tribal nitwits Zed (Jack Black) and Oh (Michael Cera), two guys living in the year one who can neither hunt nor gather and so are thrown out of their community of Neanderthals and dung n’ stick huts. No matter. For the two have eaten of the forbidden fruit and are now curious about what lay outside of their limited little world, and so they embark on a journey through the ancient world. On their travels they meet Cain (David Cross) and Abel (Paul Rudd), Abraham (Hank Azaria) and Isaac (Christopher-Mintz Plasse), and they wind up in Sodom where their girlfriends (Juno Temple and June Diane Raphael) have been turned into slaves and are about to be sacrificed by the high priest (Oliver Platt). None of this really matters, as it’s all just set-up for a lot of bits that are flawlessly unfunny.

It’s safe to say that Ramis has gone from rusty (his previous directorial effort was 2005’s “The Ice Harvest”) to downright awful. He, along with co-screenwriters Gene Stupnitsky and Lee Eisenberg (two guys who are part of the creative think tank on “The Office”), craft a complete train-wreck of a film that falls back on everything that’s wrong with American comedy. It settles for lowest common denominator and aims lower. Poop is eaten, a character hanging upside-down pees and lets it trickle down his face, testicles are thrown, genital mutilation is referenced, and fart and vomit jokes are painfully added to this crude and all together embarrassingly sloppy and unfunny stew of crap. And this is the A-material. The movie also tries to riff on the Bible as much as possible, hitting on everything from forbidden fruit to slaves to temples of death. It’s all just a lot of rambling with no punchlines. Ramis and co. are going for a little bit of Mel Brooks, a little bit of Seinfeld, and a little Monty Python, just they fail miserably at all three. The only thing that comes close to funny and worth referencing is a looney slapstick fight between Cain and Abel that later keeps getting hammered to death through repetition.

And Jack Black is just insufferable in this kind of scenario. His brand of comedy is the hyperactive, off-the-rails, take everything to about a level 10 type that’s worked well for him in movies like “School of Rock” and “Tropic Thunder," but with sub-par material he is in fact a far below-irritating comic actor who just grates on you in every scene. And Michael Cera is doing his regular dorky hangdog shtick here and that’s another problem with the movie in general. These two spend time mugging and doing their own improv, basically being themselves rather than the characters. They’re both too modern to actually be believable in these roles. And most of the woman characters are too modern too. One mentions she’s a lesbian. Another mentions that God may be a woman. Both seem to center on feministic principles that in year one might get a woman into a lot of trouble. Lastly, as if this movie doesn’t try hard enough to work gross, we have to watch a hairy, effeminate Oliver Platt get oil rubbed on him in yet another scene that screams for laughs but only gets more groans. Please for the love of God, no “Year Two.”
Craig's Grade: D-
Craig's Overall Grading: 340 graded movies
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