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  Publicity Stills of
"Year One"
(Courtesy of Columbia TriStar)

Genre: Comedy
Director: Harold Ramis
Cast: Jack Black, Michael Cera, Oliver Platt, David Cross, Hank Azaria, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Vinnie Jones, Juno Temple, Olivia Wilde, June Raphael, Horatio Sanz
RunTime: 1 hr 36 mins
Released By: Columbia TriStar
Rating: NC-16 (Brief Nudity and Some Sexual References)
Official Website: http://www.yearone-movie.com/

Opening Day: 27 August 2009


When a couple of lazy hunter-gatherers (Jack Black and Michael Cera) are banished from their primitive village, they set off on an epic journey through the ancient world in Columbia Pictures' comedy "Year One." Harold Ramis directs. The screenplay is by Harold Ramis & Gene Stupnitsky & Lee Eisenberg ("The Office") from a story by Harold Ramis. The film is produced by Judd Apatow, Harold Ramis, and Clayton Townsend.

Movie Review:

“Year One” sounds like a concept made in comedy heaven- take two Paleolithic hunter-gatherers Zed and Oh (well, Zed is the hunter with a wayward spear and Oh is the gatherer who talks to his berries), put them through a couple of Biblical encounters done the Monty Python way and cast the very-funny-if-you-like-his-thing Jack Black and the always-shy-and-sweet Michael Cera as Zed and Oh respectively.

What’s more- surround them with a ensemble supporting cast including Oliver Platt, Hank Azaria, David Cross and the uncredited Paul Rudd; the now-“It” producer of comedies Judd Apatow; and the director responsible for some of the most memorable ‘80s comedies “Ghostbusters” and “Caddyshack”, Harold Ramis. What’s there not to be excited about?

But if you’re guessing this reviewer sounds less enthused than he should be, you’re right. “Year One” is not without its inspired moments, but its whole is distinctly less than the sum of its parts. Indeed, what “Year One” sorely lacks is a coherent story that can sustain its creative premise, something that would make it more than a series of Biblical-tale spoofs strung together on the feeblest of plot strings.

Sure, seeing Cain fervently trying to deceive his family (despite numerous slips of the tongue) that he did not stone his brother Abel to death is amusing. Just as how watching Abraham foolishly believe that the barrel-bellied Zed is a sign from God not to sacrifice his son Isaac is hilarious. But amidst the circumcision jokes, the “Sin City” Sodom references and not forgetting the obligatory fart jokes, “Year One” really doesn’t have much of a tale to tell.

To take it from one sketch to another, it uses the bare-bones story of Zed and Oh on a quest to prove Zed’s destiny as “The Chosen One”- thanks to a revelation Zed has after eating the “Forbidden Fruit” from the “Tree of Knowledge”. Yes, this journey is a mere excuse to give all those Old Testament tales a wild, irreverent spin. And that strategy works better in the first half of the movie, where most of the movie’s best bits are found (some of which can already be seen in the trailer).

But “Year One” really begins to meander about the halfway mark as Zed and Oh reach said town of Sodom (that’s the city with more whores, Abraham tells them). By then, writers Harold Ramis, Gene Stupnitsky and Lee Eisenberg have almost run out of ideas, resorting instead to fake-idol worship, virgin sacrifice, and sexually-dubious eunuchs and high-priests among other desperate attempts, to wring some laughs before it all peters out.

It doesn’t help that Jack Black and Michael Cera share little chemistry with each other. Set up like a trademark Apatow male buddy comedy, Black and Cera unfortunately share none of that male-male chemistry that other Apatow movies possess in generous portions. Most of the time, Black and Cera are simply doing their own thing; and while they are still funny, the lack of any comedic synergy between them wastes an otherwise nice pairing of opposites.

Indeed, the assembly of talent in “Year One” naturally sets itself and its audience up for more. But its payoff comes in stops and starts, hits and misses, until it limps to a messy and ultimately disappointing finish. Like our ancestors have taught us, it’s not good enough to have a smart idea; you have to work hard at it to make it right- “Year One” ignores that lesson to its own demise.

Movie Rating:

(Our Ancestors have the right to be funnier than this stitched up comedy of Biblical spoofs)

Review by Gabriel Chong


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