When you take the comedic tone of Harold Ramis, the casting connections of Judd Apatow, and the backdrop of Mel Brook’s History of the World you get this weekend’s, Year One. In order to combat the box office champ The Hangover and the romantic charm of The Proposal, Ramis and company are busting out the big guns. Led by the outlandish Jack Black and typically subdued Michael Cera, Year One attempts to take you back to where it all began one slapstick joke at a time.
Year One takes us into the caveman world of Zed (Black) and Oh (Cera). Zed is an incompetent hunter, while Oh is a virgin gatherer. Both are somewhat dismissed by their respective tribes and yearn for the acceptance of a couple of less than interested cave women named Maya (June Diane Raphael) and Eema (Juno Temple). Lacking the necessary skills to be a real hunter Zed decides that there must be more to life than his village. He convinces Oh to join him on a trek to explore the forbidden land where the tree of the knowledge of good and evil resides.
Zed assumes that the tree’s fruit will give him a boost of intellect that will make him superior to all the other men in his village. Once it is revealed that he has eaten from it, the unlikely pair are exiled and a forced to travel through unknown territory where they encounter several influential beings from the Book of Genesis including Adam, the first man, and his son’s Cain and Abel.
- The Supporting Cast - As the “Father of Many Nations” Hank Azaria shines as Abraham. Thanks to his obvious background in voice acting he’s able to give an exaggerated but still entertaining portrayal of one of the most revered men in the Bible. Oliver Platt appears as a cross-dressing high priest who works in the king’s court in Sodom. When he first appears on screen it’s hard to recognize the actor beneath the wig and makeup, but even with his physical constrictions he still manages to steal every scene he’s in.
- Cameo Appearances – A few pleasant surprises pop up in the form of Paul Rudd, Paul Sheer, and Bill Hader. They’re only around for a scene or two, but their performances were more engaging than some of the film’s main actors. They’re given a short amount of screen time to work with, but definitely make the most of what they have.
- Jack Black - Even though I did have my share of laughs while watching this movie, for the most part it had nothing to do with the performance of Jack Black. I found his portrayal typical and annoying. Both he and Cera stick to what they do best, and it’s almost to a fault.
- The Plot - It’s pretty much the same story we’ve seen over and over again. It’s hard to find any real motivation for the characters. Everything feels thrown together, which only worsens the film’s generic ending. Ramis and Apatow really surprised me with this movie, but not in a good way.
- Continuity Issues - Typically a jump cut here or there won’t completely jar your viewing experience. Yet, in this film I noticed several editing mistakes that appeared at the most inappropriate of times. I’m really surprised some of those shots made it into the final version.
Year One did deliver some laughs, but at the expense of it’s narrative. The story is all over the place and in the end never comes to a logical conclusion. If you’re easily annoyed, Jack Black’s comedic routine may come off as irritating rather than funny. The film drags at times, but remedies any dull moments with poo and urine jokes. If that’s the type of comedy you’re looking for this weekend, Year One comes highly recommended.
Year One is rated PG-13 and opens in theaters on June 19. It’s directed by Harold Ramis. Produced by Harold Ramis, Judd Apatow, and Clayton Townsend. The screenplay is by Harold Ramis, Gene Stupnitsky, and Lee Eisenberg. Executive producer is Rodney Rothman. Director of Photography, Alar Kivilo CSC.