*1/2 (out of 5)
June 19, 2009
Jack Black as ZED
Michael Cera as OH
Oliver Platt as HIGH PRIEST
David Cross as CAIN
Christopher Mintz-Plasse as ISAAC
Vinnie Jones as SARGON
Hank Azaria as ABRAHAM
Juno Temple as EEMA
Olivia Wilde as PRINCESS INANNA
June Diane Raphael as MAYA
Directed by: Harold Ramis
BY KEVIN CARR
Listen to Kevin’s radio review…
It’s not uncommon for myself to see a trailer for a movie and then dread the movie in the weeks leading up to its release. Such is the life of a film critic.
However, with “Year One,” it wasn’t even the trailer that filled me with dread. It was the poster, featuring Jack Black and Michael Cera dressed as cavemen. The whole thing just seemed ill-conceived from the very beginning.
When I finally saw the final film, my dread was confirmed, and I found myself watching one of the worst movies of the summer.
The story follows Zed and Oh (Black and Cera), two hunter-gatherers who get kicked out of their tribe. They then stumble into Biblical times where they meet Cain and Abel and later visit the city of Sodom, where they have to rescue their tribal girlfriends from slavery.
Now, I know what you’re thinking… any film featuring tribal girlfriends in animal skins and a trip to Sodom can’t be all that bad. Well, trust me, it is.
Rather than playing out like a modern film, “Year One” seems to be constructed of scenes that are reminiscent of failed SNL sketches. You know the ones, in which the sketch just ends with no punch line? Well, imagine that sketch as a two-hour movie, and you’ve got an idea of what “Year One” is all about. Think “Lothar of the Hill People: The Motion Picture.”
Of course, the film is not all that bad. There are some definite laugh-out-loud moments, and if you can take the subdued reaction delivery of Michael Cera buffered against the manic silliness of Jack Black, you’ll find some funny moments. The problem is that you have to wait ten minutes or more between them.
In the same vein, some supporting actors steal quite a few scenes. Hank Azaria as a circumcision-obsessed Abraham is pretty funny. David Cross and Paul Rudd as Cain and Abel are good. And Oliver Platt delivers a funny, if not retreaded character of a flaming high priest. Unfortunately, the movie is not about these people as much as it is about the situational comedy of Black and Cera.
The writing and directing of “Year One” hints at an attempt to make a modern version of “History of the World: Part I” or any number of Monty Python flicks from the 70s and 80s. Unfortunately, the film either never goes far enough for the joke or goes too far and relies on the stock material from the actor’s repertoire.
Unfortunately, the best thing I can say about “Year One” is that it’s not as bad as last week’s stinker, “Imagine That.”